WHAT IS AD-BLOCKING
The word elicits a range of reactions depending on who you’re talking with. To your teenage son streaming Arrested Development (wait…we don’t have Netflix!) it’s seamless pop-up protection. To tech juggernauts and certain industry experts, it’s the bane of online advertorial existence.
The brow-raising word is none other than AdBlock, and it’s been causing an internet ruckus since inception in 2006.
Defined as an open-source, content-filtering system that works across nearly all major internet browsers, AdBlock has made a name for itself in ruffling the revenue feathers of services that use ads to cover domain expenses. And while it sounds seemingly harmless to the average Jane and Joe Schmoe, innocently trying to listen to music online without interruption, many are weary of the repercussions Ad-Blocking may have on the scope and scale of the current internet.
All THAT GLITTERS
The denouncers of AdBlocking have been widespread and extremely vocal.
As Ken Fisher, founder and Editor-In-Chief of the tech and IT-focused publication Ars Technica summarizes in his poignant rebuttal against Ad-Blocking, “Imagine running a restaurant where 40 percent of the people who came and ate didn’t pay. In a way, that’s what Ad-Blocking is doing to us.”
He makes a fair point. In a 2014 survey conducted by the Ireland start-up PageFair, Ad-Blocking softwares was found to be used by 28 percent of the U.S.’s population. This was staggeringly high compared the rest of the world’s internet perusers, who only accounted for 5 percent of AdBlock downloads.
Perhaps even more noteworthy is the millennial piece of the pie. Out of the U.S.’s 28 (and skyrocketing) ad-blocker percentile, almost half are millennials. And given this generations’s online shopping habits and tremendous time spent on social media, a millennial blocking ads can do some major revenue damage. Some stats indicate the average 5.4 hours millennials spend on social media pages equipped with AdBlock can drop advertising revenue by as much as a 15 percent.
This is more than enough to get the sweat dripping down some major industry leaders, from search engine giants Google and Bing to video-hosting Youtube and goliath e-retailer Amazon.
In June of 2013, Google was among a collective of online powerhouses – the likes of which included Microsoft and Amazon – who announced plans to counteract the growing threat of AdBlock Plus to their revenues partners and sources.
In a controversial deal with AdBlock known as the Acceptable Ads program, web publishers can pay to have their sites sidestep the plug-in’s blocking filters, poking their content through and essentially curtailing the whole system to begin with.
Acceptable Ads co-founder Tim Schumacher recently stated the program is an attempt to seek a kind of white-flagged middle ground, a way to appease businesses that rely on advertising revenue and the everyday population who finds them annoying.
“Eighty percent of our users say they would not mind a few ads if they would help publishers fund their content, as long as the ads are nonintrusive. There’s also little bit of a feeling of guilt. People do have a sense of right and wrong.”
However, the problem sprouts that only these large-scale corporations – the tech megalodons like Google and Microsoft – can afford to fork over the kinds of fees Acceptable Ads asks. Everyone else is left in the pixelated dust.
Yet doesn’t this all seem a bit too rosy for the likes of Google and its search-partner sites? Well, that’s because it was. Acceptable Ads only allows pure text-based content, leaving advertisers with a handful of marketing options that many say are the least creative and least engaging for the audience.
THE STAKES ONLY GROW HIGHER
Yet it was the same system of digital marketing invasiveness and online sales techniques that catapulted Ad-Blocking into creation.
Pop-ups, sponsored ads, and spam-style, in-your-face announcements often flash across a screen without warning, off-putting site users and all but asking them to hunt down alternatives. Videos without a visible mute option and page loads saturated with branded content does nothing to help the naysayer’s cause.
And with further intrusive strategies like online behavioral advertising and ad tracking proven to happen on nearly every page you visit, in nanoseconds hidden through a coded void, it’s no wonder Ad-Block has grown to boast over 60 million users worldwide.
In 2013’s Internet Advertising Revenue Report, advertisers dedicated a hefty $20.1 billion dollars on internet advertisements, with $6.1 billion of that going strictly toward display ads. Yet if even 5 percent of site business traffic is being blocked, the revenue loss could be in the millions.
So who’s left to pick up the tab in ad-blocking technology’s wake? Usually the site publishers, the ones who need the revenue in the first place.
First-party ads are those typically hit the hardest. As part of a larger pay-per-click system sold directly to the publisher, money is lost with each and every block. This net drain is quickly followed with third-party ads, the ones that signal out to relevant networks which then auction for your screen space in real time. If those signals are blocked from the get-go, there’s no transaction paid to the publisher.
BYPASSING THE BYPASSER
If you’re one such publisher, business owner, or advertiser who relies on online revenue to function, all hope is not lost. In a true, 21st-century technological dance, there are still a few maneuverable tricks to hoist up your sleeve.
And while there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to managing the mischief of AdBlock Plus, you can always equip yourself with mindfulness. Set yourself in the eyes of the user, consider the experience from their side. In the end, that’s the best marketing strategy that ever existed.