Commentary

Do Anti-Ad Block Efforts Inadvertently Promote It?

In a week that broadcasters telling advertisers things aren’t as bad they might appear, a new survey from Optimal.com and Wells Fargo Securities says that for the online ad industry, things could be worse. 

This new report says ad blockers will reduce online and mobile ad revenue by $12.1 billion by 2020, to about $39 billion, nearly 24% less than the $50 billion estimate offered earlier by eMarketer.

By 2020 36.6% of U.S. users will be blocking ads at least monthly, according to this gloomy estimate.

And that’s the story now that ad blocking, a real ad-world bogeyman for years, is still a relatively new wrinkle to many consumers. This report says that over 45% of its survey respondents weren’t even aware ad blockers were an available (and often) free option.

So, a provocative point suggests, a great way to educate unaware consumers about ad blockers is for publishers to create prominent online warnings against doing it. 

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"Given that ad blockers (including those of the highest quality, like uBlock Origin) are often distributed to users without charge, the increase in awareness of ad blocking will be a major adoption driver, and it is possible that publisher action to curtail content to ad blocking users might actually further increase consumer awareness of online/mobile ad blocking," a synopsis of the report states. 

Optimal, headquartered in Boulder, Colo., has a dog in this race. Since December, Optimal has been pushing to allow consumers to pay a subscription fee--that’s $5.99 a month. And in return, those publishers agree not to serve ads to those subscribers, and share in the proceeds from Optimal subscribers.  Apparently it has not paid out any cash yet, though its Website says, “We will soon have information here as to how publishers can claim their funds, but rest assured they are currently accruing for you.”

For online firms it is still true most of the ad blocking is going on via desktops--not smartphones--but that could/should change with time as more people access the Internet more often via phones.

And here’s some bummer news about that: The Optimal/Wells Fargo survey shows consumers hate mobile advertising even more than they loathe TV ads. I’m always suspect of “comparative loathing” stats, but here they are: Mobile pop-up ads are considered 3.7 times more bothersome than TV ads, and mobile video ads are 2.4 times more annoying.

In fact, 21.1% of the users aged 18-29 would be likely or very likely to agree to pay up to $9.99 a month for carrier-led blocking.

Wells Fargo and Optimal surveyed 1,700 consumers in April, specifically aimed at smartphone users because mobile is where users seem headed, fast.

The report says 11.7% of all online display ad impressions were blocked in the U.S. last year. Things could be worse. That figure is 15.1% in Canada and 16% in the United Kingdom. On the European continent, ad blocking is quite the thing: in Germany, 22.8% of ads are blocked, and in Poland, 31.2% are.

More shocking to me, and possibly indicative of problems far wider than blocking, Internet-related entities trail all others when consumers are asked, “Which entities would you trust to protect your personal information?” Only 6.7% would choose Facebook, 11.7% choose Google, 14.9% choose their mobile carrier, and 17.1% trust their phone manufacturer. 

All of those are far below federal or state governments, employers or insurers. Tops on the trust list are banks, with 43.1% believing they can keep a secret.  And a significant sign of the times: 42.5% of respondents don’t trust that any entity would protect personal information.

pj@mediapost.com

1 comment about "Do Anti-Ad Block Efforts Inadvertently Promote It? ".
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  1. J S from Ideal Living Media, May 17, 2016 at 10:43 p.m.

    Instead of ad-hoc campaigns to get users to comply with something they rarely understand, I hope Google will do something to shore up the position of Adsense, the major advertising network online -- both their own major source of revenue and that of most small websites and blogs, as well. 



    Google seems to have stood idly by while websites are shutting down by the hundreds due to weakening ad-blocked revenues, e.g., http://the-toast.net/2016/05/13/we-are-closing-the-toast-july-1st/. 



    Google desperately needs to try various approaches, like blocking access to free/ad-supported services and software -- such as Google Play Services, Gmail, Chrome, and Google search -- to users who are running ad-blockers.  Google already takes this approach with users running the Yun OS, a non-standard variant of Android, where its users are not allowed access to anything Google-related.



    I think many ad-blocking users would be surprised how streamlined, quick-loading, helpful, and unobtrusive the Google Adsense responsive ads are now (Google's newer default ad). 


    Without putting some pressure against ad-blockers, the Internet could end up heading backward, away from many productive small websites growing and offering more and more to users, to a handful of domineering, information-broker, walled-gardens like Prodigy, Compuserve, and America Online.



    So, without pushing back against ad-blockers, Google runs a serious risk of not only undermining their own revenues but of also empowering their own, less civic-minded competitors (like Facebook). 

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