The Interactive Advertising Bureau has dis-invited Adblock Plus from attending its Palm Springs leadership conference Jan. 24-26. It sent an email refunding their registration fee and rebuffed an email attempt to clarify why they were no longer on the list of paying guests.
“We attended last year, and we signed up again for their 2016 meeting … including paying the hefty entrance fee. We were fully confirmed, and they even listed us on their Web site as a participant,” an Adblock Plus blog post says.
“Then this week, we got one of those sudden emails that land in your inbox innocently, then floor you with something weird, unbelievable or ridiculous when you click on them. This one came from an unfamiliar IAB address, and it informed us that our registration for the summit was canceled and our fee refunded.”
Adblock Plus’s Mark Addison received the email informing the group of the cancellation, but attempted to make sure the IAB hadn't axed them by mistake.
It got another email from the IAB (the sender’s name has been blocked out on the Adblock blog), reiterating the refund.
“I’m sorry if there is any confusion,” the email stated. “Just to be clear, there will be no ticket available for you, and we’ve refunded your registration fee.” The email exchanges happened Jan. 6 and 7, by which time Addison’s name was already on the IAB’s guest list.
Asked by MediaPost for an explanation, an IAB spokeswoman responded: "The IAB Annual Leadership Meeting is for serious conversation among important digital industry stakeholders." She so far hasn’t responded to a follow-up email asking if that meant Adblock Plus does not fit that description. But a serious pain? Yes, Adblock Plus is all that.
Of course, it may be awkward--and possibly explosive, or awkward--for an Adblock Plus representative to be there. But, as noted, they were there last year and have attended other IAB events, though mostly overseas.
Many of the event sponsors are ad tech firms, though, whose messages now have a tougher time reaching consumers because of Adblock Plus and other blocking outfits. They probably wouldn’t be overjoyed to see Adblock Plus at the conference.
There is only one panel that overtly concerns itself with ad blocking, featuring Scott Cunningham, IAB senior vice president, who late last year wrote a letter admitting the IAB and the industry “messed up” by not recognizing the issues that have led many users to employ ad blockers.
Cunningham’s letter was as frank and forthcoming as the cancellation seems to be overly defensive. But that letter, IAB efforts and calls by more ad and publishing executives to strive for more relevant, less intrusive advertising shows that consumers’ willingness to block ads has become a huge, industry-wide concern.
The description of the panel emphasizes the importance the ad blocking issue.
“Ad blocking is not a crisis – it’s a clarion call from consumers, who are reminding publishers, agencies, marketers and technologist that the user comes first, last and always,” it reads. “Learn how the entire digital ecosystem can use the LEAN principles to collaboratively design and implement premium user experiences,” (LEAN refers to a drive toward “light, encrypted, ad choice supported, non-invasive ads,” an effort started by IAB Labs in response to ad blocking’s gains.)
Adblock Plus says it has tried to get an explanation about the cancellation from Randall Rothenberg, the IAB president and CEO. But a spokesman for Adblock Plus said: “He is still keeping the door shut…very tight.”
Adblock Plus says its software has been downloaded by 400 million Internet users worldwide. “Dis-allowing Adblock Plus from attending your event solves nothing,” wrote AdBlock’s Ben Williams on the blog post. “We will proceed to work with others to build a sustainable monetization model for the Internet.”