Commentary

Has Ad Blocking Lost Its Shine? Let's Hope So

It's always nice to see tech companies move away from just blocking ads. Last September, we had Eyeo, owner of Adblock Plus, launching an ad exchange, which struck me like Hannibal Lecter opening a deli counter in a food hall. Then, last week, Shine had rebranded as Rainbow around the same time as the IAB revealed that ad-blocking rates had stabilised.

To serve as a reminder, Shine was the Israeli start-up and "bete noir" of the mobile marketing industry that was used by the carrier Three to block ads at network level. A storm erupted and a war of words between Shine and the mobile marketing industry has raged on since. If it wanted to make a big stir by being the first ad-tech company to block ads at the network level, then Shine most certainly succeeded.

Now, it looks as if it wants to come in to the fold and position itself as a data partner to the industry. No more routine block 'em all -- more of a partnership route. The new deal, under the Rainbow rebrand, allows brands to have their ads vetted for free to ensure they are not annoying. By having proof that they meet industry guidelines, advertisers can go to market in "brand safe" mode, knowing they are not annoying consumers. Any ads that don't meet the IAB "LEAN: principles will be blocked automatically at network level. All this comes for free.

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The money bit comes in when advertisers want some data from the mobile carrier or ISP. For an undisclosed fee, brands and agencies can get "insights" and "data services."

The first question that arises is how are these different from any insight and data advertisers can already glean from campaigns. If they go beyond just their own campaign, to include the experience of multiple advertisers across the entire user base, then it would appear that Rainbow has moved from solely protecting consumers from bad ads to working more closely with the people it had labelled as supplying those bad ads.

In fact, the whole announcement to the media seemed like a massive bit of butt kissing to the ad industry. The notes point out it is joining industry bodies, such as the Mobile Marketing Association, and that it isn't routinely blocking ads at carrier level any more. Nor does it have any plans to launch an ad network. The unruly teenager is very sorry for scraping the car, cussing at mother and is willing to cut the lawn for the foreseeable future to say sorry.

Clearly, kicking the hornets' nest hasn't worked for Shine. So it has changed its name and jumped ship. The consumer will still be offered the chance to sign up to block intrusive ads on Three. What they won't have so highly flagged up to them is that Shine is now Rainbow and it's making its money by selling consumer data and "insights" to the guys it was until last week casting as the villains in this pantomime. 

Rainbow remains on trial at Three UK. It will need to pray that the mobile advertising industry is prepared to let bygones be bygones and hope that it values Rainbow users' data more highly than the insights each advertiser and its agency can glean from their own tools, and those of their advertising partners.

Robespierre, the famous French Revolution leader, once quipped about sending out forces to reeducate the people that "nobody likes armed missionaries." As Rainbow turns face and tries to placate the industry it has poured scorn over for the past year, under the rallying flag that protecting consumers is good for all sides, I rather think the same sentiment will apply. 

1 comment about "Has Ad Blocking Lost Its Shine? Let's Hope So".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, February 27, 2017 at 1 p.m.

    It's hard to cheer for unwanted interruptions. 

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