Ad Blocking Gathers Strength In Unknown Numbers

Who will be the gatekeeper for programmatic advertising? As a couple of upstart ad-blocking companies vie for the privilege, charges fly back and forth. With more than 50% of Millennials now wielding ad-blocking software, this matters.

Ben Williams, comms/op manager of leading ad-blocking outfit Adblock Plus, the company many in the programmatic industry love to hate, says that its Acceptable Ads effort, which seeks to impose guidelines for digital advertising, will soon be handed over to a board of “independent stakeholders.” This will consist of “advertising groups, content creators, YouTube video creators.” Adblock Plus says 30 such potential representatives showed up at a February summit in London. 

“We’d like to get that formed by this year,” Williams said, with a “firewall between us and our marketplace.”

But Roi Carthy, CMO of the other major ad-blocking company, Shine Technologies, vows an “aggressive move” into online ads, beyond the impressive mobile deals recently announced with Three Group in Europe, serving 30-million customers in Italy and the U.K. This deal is significant because Three Group customers will not have to download anything for ad blocking. If Shine can reach similar agreements in the U.S., it will be a game changer. 



As with those in the programmatic space, Shine’s Carthy is heavily critical of Adblock Plus, which “whitelists” various advertisers who work with them, allowing their ads to be seen by users of Adblock Plus software. In some cases, not all, Adblock Plus collects a 30% fee from whitelisted clients.

“We are of a different bent altogether,” Carthy says, “you have to pay them to be whitelisted, it is not the case with us.” But he adds, “we are willing to discuss new rules of engagement” with the advertising industry, some kind of guidelines. 

For those with a long media memory, this smacks of efforts in the magazine industry to impose ad guidelines, in that case by the MPA, the industry group. But the facts and the stakes here are very different. A key industry group, the Interactive Advertising Bureau, has heavily criticized Adblock Plus, claiming that their Acceptable Ads effort is a sham and “extortion,” and that few industry stakeholders will work with them.

On the other hand, industry sources assert that the penetration of ad blocking software may be much higher than some estimates. One source, who asked not to be identified, says some internal studies put ad blocking software, a lot of it from Adblock Plus in particular, to be as high as 50% in the U.S., and one estimate says up to 63% of Millennials are using ad blocking. 

Adblock Plus’ Williams has a much lower estimate, about 10% in the U.S., but another industry insider says this undercount may be deliberate.

“Ten percent is low,” this person says, adding that it may be in the interests of the ad-blocking industry to offer low estimates as they gather strength, as “they are wolves in sheep’s clothing.”

Ireland’s PageFair puts the number of ad-blocked customers at 144 million worldwide, over 27% of U.S. computer users, with $41 billion in ad revenue worldwide projected to be lost to ad-blocking this year.

Can a deal like Shine’s with Three Group happen in the U.S.? Keep in mind that major mobile carriers such as Verizon actually own ad-supported Web content here, including the Huffington Post. But with an estimated ad-blocking growth adoption rate of almost 70%, the stakes are high.

2 comments about "Ad Blocking Gathers Strength In Unknown Numbers".
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  1. Craig Mcdaniel from Sweepstakes Today LLC, March 2, 2016 at 12:36 p.m.

    There is a flip side to this question. This is, what ads can't be blocked? Answer - enbedded text links. The ad industry is missing this point big time. I can guarantee 100 percent if you give me your sweepstakes ad, it will be shown and the click number are depented on the quality of the ad.

  2. Brian Nakamoto from Tightrope Interactive, Inc., March 2, 2016 at 1:01 p.m.

    Eyeo and Shine are filling a void left open by the IAB whose main response to ad blocking so far has been to bash it instead of focusing all of their energy on defining an alternative like (maybe) LEAN.

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