Ad-blocking Threat Redux

We received some interesting comments on yesterday’s RTBlog, “Do You Think The Ad-blocking Threat’s Urgent? If So, What Are You Doing About It?” Please keep your comments coming and let us know how ad blocking is affecting your business  -- and what you think can be done about it.

Taking a look at some reader comments:

Virginia Suhr from Lobo & Petrocine Marketing pointed out that until consumers’ favorite content disappears, they won’t care so much about using ad blockers — but that less intrusive ads will help.

Virginia agrees that issue is urgent and that soon it will become commonplace to block ads. She makes these points:



1. When you get ads, content is free. If you don’t want ads, you pay.

My Response: This is fairly basic. The industry has been doing this for a very long time. The pact you make for getting free content is to accept ads. But just because you accept the pact doesn’t mean ads have to be so intrusive and take over the entire page, etc.  Yesterday, I counted four times that I had to "‘x" out of ads that obscured content I was trying to read. Argh!

2. Offer an incentive for consumers to look at ads, such as a reward program. Consumers would get points for the number of ads they don't block and can redeem them for prizes from advertisers and content providers.  "People like to get 'stuff.'"

My Response: This sounds plausiblel I’ve heard this offered as a potential solution before. But is anyone actually doing this? Let me know. Any examples out there?

Personally, I think we’ll see more native advertising or branded content in response to the increasing use of ad blockers.

Another reader, William Cosgrove of Devcode Services, agrees with Penry Price’s comments cited in yesterday's post. Cosgrove says: “The important point that advertisers missed is the fact that the consumer has taken control today and wants to be educated and entertained.” If I understand him correctly, consumers want to be lured in, delighted and entertained. They don’t want ads pushed at them. Sounds reasonable to me.

Cosgrove attributes part of the problem to programmatic advertising that’s designed to reap financial rewards at the expense of the consumer experience. He notes that “less than 8% of what clients pay for impressions and clicks is human.”

My Response: I think William makes a good point about programmatic being part of the problem, as companies seek financial gains at the expense of consumer experience. But where he get the 8% figure? Curious.

If we “pull this magic carpet” as you suggest, William, what kind of advertising ecosystem will we see? How does that address the problem of creating less-lnterruptive creative?

Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics, Inc., a frequent commenter on this blog, sides with advertisers, maintaining that part of the problem lies with 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," he writes.

"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."

My Response: Yes, Ed, but people are, in fact, willing to pay a premium not to see ads! There are plenty of subscription services that free me from looking at ads -- although the teasers and trailers on HBO and Showtime are getting a little much. If these promos weren't shot so well, I would throw my shoe at the TV.

Finally, Dave Ginsburg, CMO of Teridion, (full disclosure: he’s my cousin and one of the smartest guys I know), comes at the issue from the B2B networking side. In an email, he told me that he sees ad networks and the ad blockers escalating their war. “The ad networks have gone too far in being intrusive.  They've overstayed their welcome. The Times article confirms this.” The article he refers to is a good read on the subject.

Now, for all the creatives out there: What are your ideas for less intrusive ad formats? Please weigh in here with specific ideas and I’ll explore them in a subsequent column.

2 comments about "Ad-blocking Threat Redux".
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  1. William Cosgrove from Devcode Services, November 14, 2015 at 9:04 a.m.

    I certainly don’t have all the answers but the IAB among others have recently admitted that they “screwed up” by not considering the customer experience, are already looking for alternatives.

    If “Less Interruptive creative” is presented in an educational or entertaining content format to draw people in with inbound marketing tactics that not too long ago were being touted as the way to market online then users might be content.

    The big issue here is the monetization of all this and the desire to keep those recurring revenues coming in.

    I have to admit that I could not find the 8% statistic I referred to in my comment but to explain more-Ad Contrarian Bob Hoffman, the retired CEO and chairman of Hoffman/Lewis Advertising, in June 2013 wrote on a $7.5 billion scandal that has been developing under the digital radar in the advertising world for the past few years.

    Samuel Scott at Moz wrote more recently that “Agencies have been receiving kickbacks and indirect payments from ad networks under the guise of ‘volume discounts’ for serving as the middlemen between the networks and the clients who were knowingly sold the fraudulent ad impressions. Ad networks knowingly sell bot traffic to publishers and publishers knowingly buy the bot traffic because the resulting ad impressions earn both of them money -- at the expense of the clients who are paying for the impressions.”

    So publishers make money. Ad networks make money. And agencies make money. The only ones suffering are advertisers -- and, by extension, consumers.


    Columnist Ratko Vidakovic in an article at marketingland entitled “The Many Faces of Programmatic Ad Fraud explains that Ad fraud has one or more of these characteristics:

    • Non-human traffic (i.e., bots).

    • Zero chance of being seen (i.e., zero percent viewability).

    • Intentionally misrepresented.


    Most anti-fraud efforts, and most press coverage, seem to focus solely on non-human traffic. But fraud goes far beyond bots. It also includes ads that have zero chance of being seen by a human and ads that are intentionally misrepresented by publishers.

  2. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, November 14, 2015 at 10:11 a.m.

    The whole idea that advertisers should switch to "less intrusive" ads confounds me as it perpetuates the notion that the advertisers are at fault for the chaotic way digital ads are displayed, the attendant clutter and disruption, etc. ---not the publishers, "ad networks" and other sellers. Why should any advertiser even think about trying not to capture the attentuion of an audience---any audience? Why should any advertiser be willing to dramatically reduce the selling power of his ads, as if this is going to stop people from using ad blockers? And just how would such a move be orchestrated? By gathering all of the advertisers, their agency "creatives" and account management, plus the commercial production stuudios and others together at Yankee Stadium and pleading for all of them to band together to save the "digital medium"? Absurd.

    Here's an idea. Why not set up a publisher's ad approval board that passes judgement on all digital ads as to their "intrusiveness"? Those that fail to pass muster are rejected, along with their ad dollars. The same board might set up standards regarding what is "good" and "bad" content; any publisher who fails this test isn't allowed to sell ads.

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