Can Brands Clear Up Publishers' Ad-Blocking Mess?

Does anyone else hear the sound of the stable door being bolted a year or two after the ad-blocking horse has already galloped off in to a distant field? The "Coalition For Better Ads," which the World Federation of Advertisers publicly endorsed at Dmexco last week, is a very worthy project -- don't get me wrong. But what impact can it have?

I have had many conversations with digital marketers about ad blocking and how it can be stopped. The most curious always revolve around the assumption that it can be countered by better ads. The obvious point here is how ad blockers would know that the ads they are blocking have just got better? If I no longer go to a restaurant after a bad meal, I have no idea whether it has gotten better or not, surely?

So we're effectively talking about limiting the trend toward ad blocking. That actually makes sense. Give people less motivation to block ads and hopefully, fewer will choose to do so. The Coalition For Better Ads, by the way, is all about having the technology to deliver non-intrusive ads and to monitor that standards are being adhered to, as well as being communicated with the public.

It may be just me, but isn't fighting ad blocking mainly a publisher issue? The brands signing up to be non-invasive and not get on audiences' nerves are the big respectable names in advertising. They have no desire to annoy the public and so they don't. The real issue is the spots that publishers make available. Look at the most annoying experiences and it's nearly always a publisher's fault. They could choose to only have audio played when a viewer click on play and they could stop their own pages being taken over up by pop-ups which you can skip after a few seconds. They could choose not to litter their pages with intrusive ads that either cover over content or appear at the end of every paragraph.

Ultimately, of course, the cure for ad blocking lies in the hands of publishers because it's they who can deny access to their content. If consumers want a free ride by receiving content without any accompany ads, then it's down to publishers to educate them that you really can't eat your cake and have it. This could be done through an ad-free subscription model, which is unlikely to attract people who are expecting a free ride, or a simple message that a site will only work if white-listed or better still, ad blocking software is disabled.

So, it's great that responsible brands are redoubling efforts not to be annoy audiences with intrusive advertising, but the proverbial elephant in the room is that they didn't start this, so they can't finish it. Only the publishers can do that.

3 comments about "Can Brands Clear Up Publishers' Ad-Blocking Mess?".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, September 19, 2016 at 7:11 a.m.

    Agreed, Sean. But how will publishers stop the placement of annoying ads unless they take full control of what ads go on their sites, where and when they appear and how many are allowed per page or, more important, how many arde allowed to disrupt the users experience on the site? Frankly, I'm not very sanguine about the chances of publishers effecting this huge transformation as the digital media landscape includes too many independent "networks" and placement "platforms"---all striving to make a buck----without any concern for the publishers and users.

  2. Sean Hargrave from Sean Hargrave, September 19, 2016 at 10:32 a.m.

    I guess publishers can at least dictate where ads go on their site, how much of the page they are allowed to take up and ensure they don't get bothersome. The key, for me, is cutting off the flow of free content to the blockers.

  3. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, September 19, 2016 at 11:20 a.m.

    As most of you could predict, I am again irritated by the phrase "better ad" as if something that is intrinsically uninvited (like a wedding crasher) or an unwanted interruption (like a defective smoke alarm battery at 2 a.m.) could be desirable to anyone other than those selling them or measuring them. The utility of advertising is often lost on its target market, regardless how accustomed audiences have become after decades of coercion. Each summer I am accustomed to a mild sunburn but that does not prevent me from spraying on sunblock anyway. Annoyance is in the eye of the beholder. As for reversing the motivation to ad-block, the decision to install such a program is typically a one-time decision.

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