Did Ad Blocking Just Flip From Protection Racket To Mobile Marketing Saviour?

Do not adjust your computer screen, but today looks like the day from which we can start saying ad-blocking -- or at least the technology -- might well be a force for good.

Eyeo, the company behind AdBlock Plus, has revealed a list of acceptable mobile ad formats that it will allow to get through its software and on to mobile phone screens. It has taken the best part of a year to get to this stage and to its credit, mobile ad industry executives and advertisers have been involved in the talks about what is acceptable and what is not.

At a glance, the big news is that no ad can ever take over more than 50% of the screen before, during or after content has been consumed. So, the interstitial is out, by the sound of it, as are those completely annoying massive ads that dominate the screen. Those sticky ads that stay with us, as content is consumed, are allowed -- but only at the bottom of the screen and only if they're small. This format is also permitted to have animation. Also, native tile ads need to be placed below primary content, not above it.

To be honest, if you ask the average consumer and advertiser what they would want from mobile advertising, and what they would rather see jettisoned, large ads that get in the way and somehow stick to you as you try to navigate are probably the first that would be consigned to history. If we're talking advertising "Room 101" I'd also nominate auto-play videos, particularly those with audio turned on. For starters, I guess ads that obscure content is a good place to begin.

There is obviously the great work being done by the Coalition for Better Ads which publishers would do well to take a look at and adopt. Cramming pages with overbearing adverts is in nobody's interest in the long term. Advertisers will realise some publishers are not worth dealing with and consumers will avoid such sites too, or download an ad blocker to deal with the issue for them.

So, could this be how AdBlock Plus transitions into the mobile-first age? Ad blockers, as a general bunch, have tried a few tricks. The worst had to be asking publishers to pay to be white-listed so ads on their sites weren't blocked. It appeared to me to be little other than a protection racket.

This latest departure is far more preferable but I still think the change in stance isn't altogether altruistic. Figures from  eMarketer, quoted by Campaign, suggest that ad blocking is not as prevalent on mobile as it has been on desktop. There are 12.2m ad blockers in the UK in total, which works out at just over one in five internet users. As for channels, 10.9m are blocking on and 4.6m on smartphones (meaning that some are blocking on both).

Given that the majority of internet traffic is now mobile, it would appear that mobile ad blocking is lagging behind. Indeed, eMarketer forecasts that a near 8% growth in ad blocking this year will slow down to less than 5% next year. 

AdBlock Plus certainly decided to jump ship a couple of years ago in desktop and use an acceptable list of ad formats as the basis of launching its own ad exchange. One had to wonder if the same move is about to be pursued in mobile?

Regardless of future predictions, ad blocking would appear to not be making the same kind of impact on mobile as it has previously on desktop and one can imagine this has prompted the companies behind the software to consider next steps. AdBlock Plus certainly decided to jump ship a couple of years ago in desktop and use an acceptable list of ad formats to launch its own ad exchange.

I'd suggest AdBlock Plus has decided to be the consumer's friend who takes a balanced attitude to mobile advertising -- it's something that has to happen to keep the lights on but it should not be allowed to get in the way of the content.

If that is the new stance, and the release of acceptable mobile ad formats would suggest it is, I have to say that I, and surely many others, will welcome the new approach. 

The only publishers that will be seriously impacted by this are those that place ads that get in the way of their content. Reputable publishers that want their audiences to offer a pleasurable experience will not be affected. For the first time, I am looking positively on an ad blocker.

Sure, it may be a reaction to slower uptake on mobile -- and it may be a move designed to launch a mobile advertising exchange service through. However, if the end result is a better mobile experience, everyone wins. 

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