A Frank Chat About Ad Blocking

MediaPost's “The Reckoning: Trust, Transparency, Science & Accountability” event in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday kicked off with a frank conversation on ad blocking, with several viewpoints represented: a publisher, an AdBlock Plus exec, an agency CCO and media group exec.

Discussing topics ranging from the value exchange between consumers and publishers to net neutrality, panelists were Joe Barone, managing partner, digital advertising operations, GroupM Connect; John Reid, chief creative officer, Wunderman D.C.; Alex Skatell, CEO and founder, The Independent Journal; and Ben Williams, head of operations, Adblock Plus. The host was Craig Spiezle, executive director and president, Online Trust Alliance.

Spiezle began by asking if the industrywide ad-blocking problem lies with ad blockers or consumers' distrust of ads.

Reid said it's an issue of relevance. Skatell said it's simply a better experience to use an ad blocker: sites load faster, and there are less distractions. For his site, Skatell said a lot of traffic is mobile, and mobile ad blockers haven’t quite taken off yet.

AdBlock Plus' Williams said he doesn't agree with the popular idea that ad blocking is a symptom of bad ads. "I don’t like it because it sounds involuntary, like a sneeze," Williams said, adding that he thinks using an ad blocker is a statement of dissatisfaction.

Williams said he thinks the next year in ad blocking will be exciting. "if a user chooses to engage with something, [if content is good enough] a user is going to choose to pay for that content and support you in some way," he said.

After some talk about publisher tactics to get consumers to agree to see ads or pay for content, along with the need for regulation (Skatell suggested a three-strike policy for bad ads, such as those that take a mobile user from a page to the app store), the conversation moved on to a 2016 outlook.

Skatell said he thinks mobile adoption will increase. Barone said where the industry goes will be determined by the in-app environment. Spiezle said he thinks the use of ad blocking will increase in the next year, adding, "My hope is we reach an inflection point very quickly. These are not new discussions."

1 comment about "A Frank Chat About Ad Blocking ".
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  1. Steve Baldwin from Didit, January 19, 2016 at 4:20 p.m.

    Williams is IMO vastly overestimating the willingness of users to pay a dime for content. When Pew Research studied the issue in 2010, it found that only 19 percent of users were willing to pay for content. In Canada, the results were even worse, according to the Canadian Media Research Consortium. 92 percent of users surveyed said that they would find another free site, even if their favorite site began charging for content. Sorry folks  (myself included): content is commodity. Users hate to pay. And they hate ads. And now they've got the tools to turn the ads off. The rest of us are stuck between the proverbial rock and that proverbial hard place. And it's going to get much uglier as ad block adoption rates tick upward.

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