Ad Blocking War Heats Up

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Over the past few years, many Internet users have adopted ad blocking software to prevent digital advertisements from interrupting the content they consume. Research firm Ovum stated recently that ad blockers cost advertisers $24 billion in lost revenue in 2015. But companies are fighting back with their own technological innovations that enable them to bypass these filters.

One such organization is Facebook. In August, the social media giant rolled out a solution for its desktop website that makes ad blockers ineffective.

Like most other content publishers, Facebook was concerned about diminished revenue, because the ad blocking community continuously strives to become “more sophisticated and more thorough” in what the technology is able to block, according to Susan Bidel, a senior analyst at Forrester Research serving B2C marketing professionals. She notes that most of Facebook’s revenue is generated on mobile devices, so the move to combat ad blockers on its desktop platform might be an experiment to gauge the response to and the effectiveness of the product.

A number of software vendors, including PageFair, Sourcepoint, Secret Media, and Admiral, now sell anti-ad-blocking technology.

Ad blocking has proved particularly problematic for digital publishers, some of which have taken steps to combat the problem by asking users to disable their ad blockers. For example, business magazine Forbes and technology magazine Wired have requested that their readers whitelist their websites. “The good news is that for those people who [disable] their ad blockers and then engage with content on Wired or Forbes or any other publisher like that, they are clearly indicating that they are highly engaged with that content, and that makes them more valuable to the publisher,” Bidel says. “In theory, [publishers] should be able to charge higher rates to advertise to that highly engaged consumer.”

Bidel also points out that U.S. advertisers, which have largely remained on the sidelines in the ad blocking debate, might soon have no choice but to join the conversation. “It’s important for [advertisers] to become engaged in the conversation because the more consumers access media through digital devices, and the more consumers doing that use ad blockers, the more difficult it will be for marketers to reach their audiences,” she says.

Moreover, organizations might need to make more of an effort to explain the importance of advertising to consumers. All interested parties should work together to clarify the monetization relationship between content and consumers’ ability to view that content, Bidel suggests. Although she notes that there will always be dedicated consumers who do not want to see advertising, she believes most consumers will make informed decisions to view content from companies they trust if they are provided with an honest explanation of how advertising supports that content.

“There is no doubt that the entire ecosystem has contrived to deliver an unsatisfying experience to consumers, and consumers finally have a way of expressing their dissatisfaction,” she says. “If marketers, publishers, and the entire ecosystem work to come together and deliver a better experience, the average consumer will accept that deal and disable their ad blockers.”


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