By: Gary Wiggins

Much has been made of the advent of ad blocking apps and plug-ins. Your opinion on this new technology, in many cases, will depend on whether your job revolves around digital advertising production or not. In my case, ad blocking has provided a needed break from irrelevant digital ads and pop-ups that distract from the content that I’m trying to access. Ad blocking has also saved me a little bit of money by helping me cut back on my mobile data plan.

While the positives of this technology make it a popular option for most consumers, Ad Blocking is causing many marketers to panic. In fact, the President and CEO of the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) Randall Rothenberg, recently came out against ad blockers by calling them “Profiteers and a threat to free speech”.[1] Not only did Rothenberg make this statement, but he then went on to refer to a company called Adblock Plus as “an unethical, immoral, mendacious coven of techie wannabes at a for-profit German company”.[1] As user of ad blocking software, I would hope that this attitude and language is limited to the view of a single rogue executive, it unfortunately is not.

Anti-ad blocking advocates will point out the amount of money that blockers are costing companies. In order to combat this, companies such as Forbes and Slate have resorted to blocking or charging users that have their blocking plug-in enabled.[2] One of the more positive approaches to this issue has been from companies such as Bloomberg LP who are looking to clean up the digital ads that are on their site. [2] As marketers, we are forced to constantly be looking for new and innovative ways to deliver relevant messages to consumers. As both a millennial and a marketer, I feel like we should be examining what causes a customer to turn to ad blocking rather than trying to shut down the ad blocking industry.

For years, digital has been the channel that we have all been told that we have to be in. How many times have we heard that “this is the year digital takes off”? All of the hype around digital advertising technology has lead to a rush of untargeted, completely irrelevant ads that are thrown up in front of us just to get an impression. Years of this has led to consumers that are fed up with, and frankly annoyed, by any type of digital advertisement. Ad Blocking is an issue that we as marketers have created, and one that we might be stuck with.

Instead of trying to put these companies out of business, I would like to see the IAB look to work with ad blocking companies to ensure the delivery of high-quality, targeted ads. This isn’t a “threat to free speech”[1], this is a simple response to customer demand. At the same event where Randall Rothenberg insulted and uninvited Adblock Plus, the IAB actually invited the CEO of anti-tracking plug-in Ghosterly to speak at the IAB leadership summit.[3] Why invite one company and insult another?

There is no easy solution for this issue but rather than arguing about it, people with power to affect the industry should be working to fix the issue. Any solution to the ad blocking problem will have to revolve around fixing the quality of ads, not increasing the quantity of them. As a digital native myself, I want offers that are relevant to my interests and my needs. I want to see digital advertising turn into something that is welcomed by consumers. In order to get to this point, we as marketers must fundamentally change the way we think about the digital consumer experience and our place in it. Please, let’s start being creative in the way we think about this medium instead of thinking of it as a numbers game.

 

[1] Internet advertising honcho slams ad blockers as ‘profiteers’-http://nypost.com/2016/01/26/internet-advertising-honcho-slams-ad-blockers-as-profiteers/

[2] How Slate, The Huffington Post, Bloomberg fight ad blocking-http://digiday.com/publishers/slate-washington-post-bloomberg-others-combat-ad-blocking/

[3] As IAB Bars One Ad Blocker From Its Summit, It Welcomes Another One on Stage-http://adage.com/article/digital/adblocking-software-maker-attending-iab-summit/302192/