Do You Think The Ad-Blocking Threat Is Urgent? If So, What Are You Doing About It?

Attend any industry conference keynotes or panels, hang out in corridors, listen to webinars or chat over lunch, and most conversations will turn to ad blocking. The fever pitch is rightfully high. Who cares about viewability metrics if ads are blocked altogether?

One of the more thoughtful commentators on the subject of ad blocking I’ve come across is Penry Price, vice president of marketing solutions at LinkedIn. In a commentary on, Price argues that ad blocking represents a crisis (of epic proportions, perhaps) that must be taken seriously. To date, it has not. Price maintains that publishers and advertisers feel somewhat protected from the crisis since so much digital content is consumed via mobile devices, and through mobile apps in particular, where ad-blocking software doesn’t work.



Price’s main argument is that publishers can’t afford to be complacent about ad blocking, because technology changes fast and it’s only a matter of time before mobile apps are affected. He also maintains that publishers need to think hard about the context within which advertising appears and the mindset people are in when they come to your site. And he’s also making a larger point: That publishers and advertisers need to rethink and reinterpret the user experience of advertising. (I hate the word “user,” but UX and UI -- user experience and user interface [design] -- are, after all, specific careers.)

As a consumer, if you’re coming to a site to get the latest news, play a game,  or simply indulge in the latest Hollywood gossip, how do you want to experience advertising? If you’re anything like me, you don’t want to encounter it at all, or you want the most gentle, unobtrusive experience.

Lately, I’ve been ‘x’ing out of so many ads before I even get to read anything. I’ve watched pre-roll before TV shows, and interstitials during the shows — I’ve encountered them on Verizon FiOS TV on demand — and I’ve accepted the bargain: I get to watch episodic TV, but I have to watch a few ads in the process. I get it. While I’ve tried ad blockers as experiments, I haven’t stuck with them, but clearly I’m in the minority, because the number of people installing ad blockers is growing.

By PageFair’s estimates, ad blocking in the U.S. resulted in an estimated $5.8 billion in blocked revenue in 2014 and is expected to cost publishers $10.7 billion in unrealized revenue in 2015. Ouch. That’s leaving a lot of money on the table. Ad-blocked revenue could cost as many as 245,000 publishing jobs, according to PageFair.

Circling back, I agree with Price’s assessment that publishers must rethink the user experience and create less interruptive ad formats, that highly differentiated and superb content is needed and that the ad-blocking phenomenon may result in more paywalls.

So the question is: Are you taking the threat posed by ad-blocking seriously? And if so, how are you addressing it in your business? I look forward to seeing your comments right here.

8 comments about "Do You Think The Ad-Blocking Threat Is Urgent? If So, What Are You Doing About It?".
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  1. Virginia Suhr from Lobo & Petrocine Marketing, November 12, 2015 at 5:08 p.m.

    Until their favorite content disappears, consumers will not care if they block ads.  Less intrusive ads would help - everyone hates ads that keep them from reaching their content. 

    Two suggestions -

    1) try a 2 tier approach - with ads content is free, without ads there is a fee.  

    2) Provide an incentive for people to look at the ads such as a reward program. You gain points for the number of ads you don't block and can redeem them for prizes from advertisers and content providers.  People like to get "stuff".

    If something is not done soon, it will become commonplace to block the ads.

  2. William Cosgrove from Devcode Services, November 12, 2015 at 8:37 p.m.

    I also agree with Price's assessment. The important point that advertisers missed is the fact that the consumer has taken control today and wants to be educated and entertained. The want to be pull in not pushed upon which has become evident. 


    I think the problem with advertising online currently is the programmatic advertising that inundates consumers to capitalize on the recurring gains they receive without regard for the consumer. They are also deceiving their clients as less than 8 % of what clients pay for impressions and clicks is human.

    And these agencies are some of the ones writing the algorithms that have robots out there chalking up the impressions and clicks at their client’s expense.

    Pull this magic carpet and I think you may see a whole new advertising ecosystem online any many problems solved.

  3. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, November 13, 2015 at 8:17 a.m.

    I believe that it is unfair to blame advertisers for this huge and growing problem. After all, who is selling the ad space---the publishers. They control where and how many ads interfere with their users' perusal of their content...don't they? Instead of the helter skelter manner of scheduling/serving ads the sellers should create standard formats---probably like TV/radio commercial breaks----which users come to expect and can ignore or not at their pleasure---just like on TV and radio. Obviously, the amount of ad clutter on said "breaks" must be reasonably limited, instead of piling one ad upon another ad nauseum, and some form of "product protection", again like TV, should be considered so directly competing product ads aren't in the same "break". Such an organized system would not only allow users to access and read content without random interruptions, it would probably enhance the impact of many ads and allow publishers to charge higher CPMs. I don't think that inviting users to pay to avoid ads will accomplish much---except to reduce the visitation rates for most publishers' websites.

  4. Dave Ginsburg from Teridion, November 13, 2015 at 12:17 p.m.

    Coming at this from the networking side, it is interesting the technologies being deployed in the cloud and at the brower for 'content recommendations' and such.  The ad networks make a move, and the blockers make the next move.  MAD, and i'm not talking Madison Avenue.  But from the UX, it is all too intrusive.  A month or so ago the NYT ran a great analysis of the major sites and ad content and scripting overhead.  Not good.

  5. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston replied, November 13, 2015 at 1:11 p.m.

    I cannot think of an incentive that would get me to willingly view advertising. It's intrusive by definition, assuming effectiveness is the goal. I think past public complacency came from lack of control, not acceptance of the bargain. Technology has freed the audience because the digital stream is too easy to manipulate. Yes, I encounter sites that block my ad blocker, so I find suitable substitutes. If all else fails, I look away during the pre-roll or mute the speaker. I firmly believe people have always disliked commercial interruptions, but only recently have the wherewithal to fight back. So who will pay the content providers? The last time I looked, Netflix was doing pretty well without ads. $10 a month is a small price to pay for no interruptions.

  6. Mike Einstein from the Brothers Einstein, November 13, 2015 at 5:07 p.m.

    Ed, et al, it's called commercial media for a reason. That being said, the only "user" with any skin in the game is the paying advertiser. This whole ad-blocking debate is senseless.

  7. Mike Einstein from the Brothers Einstein, November 13, 2015 at 5:54 p.m.

    Stated another way, from a business-model perspective, it's never been a matter of ad-supported programming, but rather, programming supported advertising. Clearly the ad load on the digital side has reached illogical proportions, but that's only because it's so cheap and unaccountable.

  8. Tobi Elkin from MediaPost replied, November 20, 2015 at 4:51 p.m.

    Yes, Bill, the consumer wants to be entertained NOT interrupted! If I see ads, they better be good! I want to laugh, cry, interact, smile, share the ad... and believe me, I've had some of these experiences with ads. I've also had poor experiences--we all have. My mom likes the Swiffer TV ad about the retired couple--it makes her laugh and it resonates for her. And it's not only senior citizens who like that ad--I like it too.

    Entertain me. Engage me. Give me something clever and I'll be happy to accept the advertising pact.

    I agree with you about the non-human traffic--that's why we need stringent ad verification. I'm also tired of fake Twitter followers.

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