We settled into the large ballroom filled with 500-plus attendees just as Rothenberg took the stage. His first slide made me throw up a little in my mouth. It started with “IAB: Putting users first.”
In the “about” section of the IAB Web site, there is an elegant 125-word description where the word “consumer” is used zero times.
Rothenberg then shared and sourced IAB research on the top reason consumers are choosing to download ad blockers. He called it the “hundredth monkey” phenomenon. The number-one reason consumers are blocking ads is because of a herd mentality in which Web site users do something because others are doing it, he explained.
The IAB CEO describes the consumers the IAB puts first as monkeys who can’t think for themselves.
I found this reason for ad-block use puzzling. I also found it strange that the IAB research study Rothenberg sourced to support this claim is from September of 2014. The data is almost two years old. The number of people who have downloaded ad blockers has grown by 64% since that study.
I suspect the reasons why may have changed. Industry experts I speak to say the number-one reason people download an ad blocker is simple: speed. Imagine boarding a plane where no one has carry-on luggage. That’s how much faster the Web experience feels when the weight of a Web page is reduced by blocking ads and the coding attached to them.
On slide 11 of his presentation, Rothenberg then shared the top-five reasons he and the IAB believe ad blockers hurt “marketers, publishers and consumers.” The first four reasons are related to how advertisers and publishers are negatively affected, and the fifth reason addresses consumers.
The IAB says it puts the consumer first — except in this case, where the consumer is fifth.
The reason ad blocker use negatively impact consumers, according to Rothenberg, is that it “reduces choice and increases costs.” His first sub point read, “Media diversity is threatened.” His second sub point was “Subscription fees replace ad-supported content.”
The Internet is nothing if it not bloated with choices. If a few hundred thousand Web sites disappeared tomorrow, no one would notice. Consumer choice isn’t taking a meaningful hit with the rise of ad blockers.
Rothenberg also contends consumers will have to pay for content they currently get for free. On what planet are consumers paying for run-of-the-mill Web content?
His speech ended with the IAB’s new acronym on how publishers should battle ad blocking because, Rothenberg said to the crowd, “that’s what you’ll remember.” He quickly revisited the old acronym of L.E.A.N introduced two months ago, and then jumped to his new one: D.E.A.L.
This acronym starts with the word “Detection” that ad blocking is occurring. Rothenberg proudly announced that the IAB has written a script publishers can load onto their pages to find out how much ad blocking is occurring.
The consumer the IAB puts first is frustrated with the speed in which Web pages download — and the IAB is encouraging publishers to add more weight to their pages.
The IAB CEO closed by telling the crowd he couldn't stick around for questions because he had to catch a flight to Paris to give this same speech. The room groaned with mock sympathy.
I wish the IAB took on companies that flood our ecosystem with fraud the way the association's CEO battles one company that challenges his beliefs. I wish the IAB looked at ad blocking as an opportunity to set policies that helped stop obvious bad ad practices. I wish the IAB approached fixing the problems plaguing our industry by believing what its CEO shared on his first slide.