Growing Frustration With Ad Blockers Is Evident At The Advertising Week

At the ongoing Advertising Week, IAB has called the ad-blockers highway robbers while creating a working group and an online hub to help publishers deal with it

Today, ad-blockers are the nightmares for publishers. Ad blocking or ad filtering (removing or altering advertising content on a portal) is a problem created by both advertisers and publishers. In the mad rush for more advertising dollars, publishers often compromised on user experience.

The poor reader had to battle all kinds of ad pop-ups, autoplay video ads, and sometimes to the extent where she had to struggle to find the content for which she had landed on the portal. But not anymore, today readers are digitally quite equipped and hence not interested even to look at irritating ads which kill their user experience.

This has led to the growth of the biggest problem for publishers: ad-blocking. Ad-blocking will lead to almost $22 billion of lost advertising revenue this year, according to the report put together by Adobe and PageFair, a Dublin-based start-up that helps companies and advertisers recoup some of this lost revenue. That represents a 41 % rise compared to the previous 12 months, and the levels of ad-blocking activity now top more than a third of all Internet users in some countries, particularly in Europe, the report said.

Things turned out really bad for publishers when very recently Apple’s iOS – iOS 9 decided to include ad blocking capabilities for the mobile Safari browser. Within hours after iOS 9 came out on September 16, three ad blockers made it to the top 10 most popular paid apps for iPhone in the US market. The Peace ad blocker even took the number one spot.

All this has got the industry thinking. While most publishers are looking at other sources of revenue, Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) had been considering whether to sue software companies that provide such ad blocking services.

While there have been no conclusions whether IAB can sue the software firms, it has expressed its frustration towards  ad-blocking softwares at the ongoing Advertising Week in New York. IAB has announced the creation of a working group and an online hub to help publishers deal with software that strips advertising from their sites.

“We don’t want to see highway robbery becoming the norm across the Web,” said Scott Cunningham, the general manager of the IAB’s Technology Lab. “When it comes to how ad blocking effects [sic] small publishers, there is no question that ad-blocking companies are holding their sites, their livelihoods in fact, hostage.”

Cunningham said the battle between ad-blockers and publishers is a daily war between engineers. “The arms race has already begun,” he said. IAB hopes that the informational hub and working group — an international council of industry executives — will help even the playing field for publishers.

Identifying users of blockers is the first step toward communicating with users, and IAB has some suggestions about possible things to say. Some publishers might ask their users to turn off ad-blockers, others might ask people to subscribe to a newsletter. Some larger publishers might want to ask people to pay to subscribe. The Washington Post is experimenting with blocking access to readers who give ads the stiff-arm.

IAB will continue its efforts to standardize ads to make them less intrusive and improve the user experience, including recommendations to trade Flash for HTML5 and other ways to lighten ad loads. The group is also looking at how ad servers can be made more secure by moving to https.

Not just IAB, sharing her thoughts at the IAB MIXX conference, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer told the audience that she thinks it’s a mistake for internet users to install ad blockers.

“I personally think it’s a mistake to install ad blockers,” Mayer said. She says Yahoo has ads that work and make for a better internet experience, adding to the content versus taking away from it. According to Mayer, ad blockers result in the loss of a rich, full experience of the Web. “I want to make sure to keep monetization models vibrant,” said Mayer. “It’s about transparency, choice and control.”

Amidst growing concerns on ad-blocking, the good news is that just short of two weeks since ad blockers skyrocketed to the top of the iPhone paid app chart, only one remains in the top five, while a former number one has slipped to below 20th place.

This isn’t a big breather for publishers but certainly it’s turning into a noteworthy debate at the ongoing Advertising Week.