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Mobile ad blocking & the challenge for publishers: The experts' view

The number of people blocking ads online is increasingly becoming a headache for the publishers that rely on them for revenue.

With ad blocking apps recently becoming the best-selling software in the App Store after the technology giant announced it would allow them on its latest operating system update iOS9, the concerns about mobile ad blocking in particular are growing even larger.

We asked four digital marketing experts whether they or their clients are concerned about mobile ad blocking and what brands can do to overcome the issue.

Are you/your clients concerned about ad blocking on mobile?

Andrew Girdwood, Media Innovations Director at DigitasLBi:

Ad blocking is something we are paying close attention to. Clients are certainly asking about it. The September iOS9 release will enable app developers to block ads on Safari, although this will not be the default setting.

To date, mobile ad blocking is only at about 2% but it will likely see significant increases. Mobile Safari represents about 52% of browsing so even a low adoption rate could have an impact on the industry.

Ad blocking software

Naomi Hands, Strategic Partnerships Manager at Somo:

We don’t see it as a major threat. As an opt-in process, it will only impact a relatively small number of potential ad impressions.

The process is not that straightforward, as users need to download an ad blocker, and then on iOS they need to enable content blockers in settings to allow it to function.

Advertisers may actually see fewer wasted ad impressions as disinterested parties opt out. Ad blocking has been around on desktop for years and hasn’t sparked the end of digital advertising.

Jon Williams, Marketing Director EMEA at Opera Mediaworks:

We see it as an opportunity as advertisers explore platforms the blockers cannot reach.

We cannot take anything for granted, however, and will continue to invest in audience targeting to ensure we deliver ads that are relevant to users.

If users receive ads that are relevant to them, they are less likely to employ the services of an ad blocker.

Tim Dunn, Director of Strategy at Isobar:

On the whole, it’s not a direct concern. Right now most of our clients in the digital media space have very strong paid propositions. We have built many products for the likes of NBC, HBO and the MSG network, and they are strongly supported by cable and/or direct subscriptions.

Also, with ad blocking already used by a significant minority of users, this isn’t really a new issue.

Ad blocking software

Is there anything sites can do to prevent or discourage ad blocking?

Andrew Girdwood:

Sites should avoid running too many ads and avoid annoying ads such as pop-ups or auto-play, especially with sound. Sites should instead concentrate on loading quickly and providing a great user experience.

A nasty one to watch out for is those ad deals, either direct or achieved via a chain of reselling, that result in malware being served out of ad spaces.

It may be the case that more “ethical” ad block alternatives like Adieu.io begin to take off. If that’s the case then publishers should support them.

Naomi Hands:

The industry as a whole needs to educate consumers to explain why advertising exists. Most consumers don’t understand that advertising is the primary revenue stream for many publishers, and given the choice people tend to choose advertising rather than paying for content.

Some sites are asking for donations to hide ads, and others are detecting when ad blockers are enabled and hiding their content until the blocker is disabled.

Publishers should also ensure their advertisers run creative and relevant ads, as well as encouraging more native, engaging and contextualised formats. This should reduce the number of people installing ad blockers in the first place.

Jon Williams:

Improved ad relevancy through audience targeting is just the first step in discouraging ad blocking. Creative ad formats need to be more sympathetic towards the user experience.

Publishers and advertisers need to rethink the placement of banners, interstitials and pre-roll video. Ads need to offer a non-disruptive experience.

There is also an argument for educating web users on the economics of advertising, for example many users would probably put up with adverts if the alternative were to pay for their favourite content.

Tim Dunn:

Not really. The technology is a reality and the cat is now firmly out of the bag, as the rising number of ad-blocking users shows.

The technology is very easy for consumers to use, and with display advertising adding so little value to the web experience, sites will struggle to create an incentive for users to allow ads through.

Sites as varied as the Guardian to PornHub now have (so I am told) new features that detect ad-blocking users and ask them to reconsider, but it’s doubtful how successful those will be when the ads, particularly on mobile, are irritating and consume valuable bandwidth.

This article was originally published in Econsultancy.

10/6/2015

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