Adblocking -please advertise responsibly

Ad-blocking, is now in its next chapter. The converted network in the form of Three is going to banish ads en masse. We have lived through a number of chapters in this story, we are reading fast because it is such a page-turner and on a panel a week or so ago I was asked a number of good questions.

The first was why had we taken so long to wake up to the issue when ad-blockers had been around for some time. The second was “what are we actually going to do about it?” and finally a question about what advertisers think. The questions raised some good points because right now the whole industry is standing around admiring the problem with little visible action.

Let’s start with the advertisers, why are they not up in arms on this topic? Well the answer is that it has not affected them, as far as they can see. They ask for media and they get media, often at a lower price than last year so everything is rosy. The mobile network Three’s partnership with the ad-blocker Shine might start a trend that means the only feasible answer is restricting inventory and increasing pricing. Advertisers will then find the cost of their digital ads goes up. When you see that six months after bringing in new rules on its exchange Appnexus has reduced traffic by 90 per cent, you start to see the potential impact if you clean up ad fraud and restrict eyeballs.

I believe we did not notice the problem until other businesses started to make money out of the problem. Not unlike the earliest protection racket that started up around the olive groves of Sicily, once it was clear that there was money to be paid the topic was widely distributed by the aforementioned racketeers, sorry ad-blocking companies. Since then, ad-blocking has seeped into the common consciousness appearing in articles, films and more. In fact as Caspar Schlickum of Xaxis said, we basically brought it upon ourselves by talking about it so much.

We are now admiring the problem from every angle like a fine work of art. Yet this is an industry issue like no other we have had before. This is an issue to end the industry and we need to create a collective approach to the problem. We have to do something on the scale of the alcohol industry. “Please drink responsibly” needs to change to “please advertise responsibly”. We need to get behind a body of people capable of creating change.

image: http://offlinehbpl.hbpl.co.uk/news/OMC/richedit/DrinkResponsibility.jpg

Advertising needs its own version of the ‘drink responsibly’ industry effort

The question is who is going to put their hand up? The Internet Advertising Bureau, IPA, and Advertising Association have to come together to start the ball rolling. Some of that should be official sounding work and some more basic. The easiest example is to all collectively agree to not build certain ads.

The IAB with its “lean” approach is starting with that, but we should all get behind it. There was a time in 2002/3 when pop-ups were banished to whence they came. They were not cool, the sole preserve of gambling and porn companies. In the last few years they have made a return in a big way, but disguised as something more sophisticated. We have to cut them out. None of this is pretty and we have to get on the front foot.

And as a parting remark, I would say it is not helpful that other parts of the business are rubbing their hands together on this topic. Whether it be people working in other media channels like TV who think that people actually like TV ads, when actually they have no choice really, give them an app to dodge TV ads and they will, or creative agencies blaming programmatic. We all have a part to play and it threatens all of us.

One thing we could all do is not allow ad-blocking companies into conferences as the IAB did in the US because the lights that beam on the stage, the food they happily eat in the break, the drinks they consume in the bar afterwards and everything in between is paid for by advertising. For that reason alone they should not be invited.
Read more at http://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/ad-blocking-end-industry-why-no-one-stepping-change-that/1384789#7uGwk0Qmp1bklfyh.99

If you want to understand Ad blocking, look to the youth.

Original article posted on The Drum here

So much of the talk on ad blocking is focused on battery sucking ads, data sucking ads, bad ads and so on. There is hand wringing at every corner of the industry.  Today I saw a tweet from an advertiser bemoaning how it is messing with their site analytics.

The solutions are diverse and range from technical to blocking the blockers or even worse paying the organised crime like protection rackets that some of these ad blocking companies are offering up.

If you really want to understand ad blocking you have to look to the youth.  Because the youth are not moaning about ads sucking their data and they aren’t obsessed with being followed around the web.  They don’t care about any of that.  They do talk about the quality of ads.  They just don’t understand the relationship between ads and free things.  Those free things are many and varied and they have not stopped to think about the reality of paying for them.

I’m part of a project called Speaker4Schools where I run educational sessions on the media industry for 16 and 17-year-old school children.  Recent presentations I’ve given have involved talking on the subject of the value exchange between advertising and the free services the children receive.

As I work through the presentation I ask how they would feel paying for Facebook (no one), what about Instagram? Yes, but a tiny amount and email? You get the idea – they don’t want to pay and can’t actually get their heads around having to pay.  As I explain that advertising is subsidising all these great services they feel are essential to their lives, I see the realisation dawn that they have really never considered the relationship at all.  Ads are just there to sell product.

I also asked the students if they use ad blockers.  30-50 per cent said they do or have done so.  They do it just because they can.  They do it because ‘there is an app for that’.  These are the young consumers of the future.  The problem of course stretches further in to older age groups which are where I agree with publishers blocking people from seeing their content.  The problem is however that fundamentally if we can’t explain to the younger generation that they get all this free stuff because of advertising, and it won’t be free for long if the use of ad blocking continues to rise, we have a much bigger problem.

It’s time to get together.  Just like the alcohol industry and its ‘drink responsibly’ campaign we need a major advertising push.  We have a massive job to do on educating the population, and perhaps along the way, help our industry attract new entrants.  It’s imperative we do this rather than lining the pockets of every ad blocking and ad blocking-blocking company and the myriad of other tech companies claiming to solve this issue.  Let’s put our energy towards a true industry effort to change perceptions and save our business.

At the same time we do have to improve creative, reduce ads, agree some standards on viewability measurement and reduce fraud.  But first and foremost we have to educate the youth that if they want to Snapchat for free they need to see ads.

Adblocking – I am going to make you an offer you cant refuse

Italian organised crime started with men ‘offering’ to protect the olive groves of Sicily from the roving gangs of people who ‘might’ burn them down at any point. It was a slightly one sided offer in that they had little choice as to whether accept that or not. As I have been reading and listening to publishers I have started to see some parallels with the Adblocking industry, especially as you delve into the commercial relations behind the scene.

As a publisher, under so many different pressures, probably the last thing you were planning for was a slick salesman roll up and make you an offer you could not refuse. Pay us some money and we can make this ‘adblocking thing’ go away or if you don’t give us a cut, we are going to let the adblock software loose on your site. Of course the publishers are not the only ones being shafted. The customer who signed up to the software may be surprised to find that he or she is seeing Ads again because the publisher paid the protection racket.What you need is a saviour of course and so enter stage left the guys that come and offer the publisher an option to block the blockers. Now of course they are not quite out of the Superman annuals as you have to pay them as well but I guess its better than not getting any ad revenues and they are working to some extent in their interests.

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Overall the whole landscape is very messy, very challenging and right now seems to be a little too much like the Sicilian olive groves of yesteryear.