Commentary

Is Ad Blocking Fueled By Marketers' 'Race To The Bottom?'

The well-publicized recent surge in ad blocking might well stem from a "race to the bottom" by retargeters that continually send the same ads to consumers. That's what Nick Illobre, director of performance media capabilities at ad company Merkle, suggested on Wednesday.

"As marketers, we have to stop this race to the bottom," he said during a panel about programmatic marketing at Advertising Week. "If I see the pair of pants that I looked at ... continue to follow me around, well of course I'm going to block that," he said.

The ad industry takes the position that consumers can opt out of receiving ads based on data collected across sites, including retargeted ads -- which typically hawk the same products that consumers recently viewed at e-commerce sites.

The official mechanism for preventing those kinds of ads involves visiting an opt-out site and then checking one or more boxes. One way that consumers arrive at that opt-out site is by clicking on the AdChoices icon that appears on the upper right-hand corner of behaviorally targeted ads.

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But the ability "to touch that little tiny AdChoices icon with this fat finger" isn't realistic, Illobre says.

Another panel participant -- Julie Clark, vice president of programmatic at Hearst -- says that most of the company's sites don't see a large proportion of ad blockers, but that one Hearst site has a 14% ad-blocking rate. Clark didn't identify that site, but said it draws a large proportion of male tech-savvy readers.

She said Hearst is considering whether to use technological measures to combat ad blocking. "Of course, Hearst is talking to tech partners that will help to suppress that for us," she says.

"As soon as something happens, there's a counter technology," she said.

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