GroupM’s John Montgomery says that publishers don’t have the 'moral right' to ask people to turn off ad blockers

Panellists engaged in debate on ad blocking at Programmatic Punch New York

GroupM’s executive vice president of brand safety John Montgomery thinks that publishers need to consider what their current user experience is like in terms of advertising before imploring consumers to turn off their ad blockers.

Speaking at The Drum’s Programmatic Punch at Ad:Tech New York, Montgomery (pictured above, far right) said that he thinks digital ads are overly monetized, suck up data plans and piss consumers off – all of which are reasons why he doesn’t believe that the industry has “the moral right to ask people to turn off their ad blockers.”

He added: “Of course we can go to [consumers] and say, ‘turn off ad blockers or we’ll deny content.’ If you’re The Economist, or the New York Times, or the Washington Post and you have a strong brand like that, then I think you’ll succeed ... But I think it’s a short-term strategy and it’s treating a symptom and not the cause. We really have to fix this thing.”

Montgomery went on to say that the industry should stop making advertisements that it knows consumers don’t like, like autoplay videos or advertisements that you can’t switch off, but said that he doesn’t think anybody will do it because they need the money now that they are making from the current model.

Fellow panelist Brendan Riordan-Butterworth, senior director of technical standards at the IAB (pictured above second from right), compared the ad blocking issue to the fight against fraud in the industry.

“What we saw in the fight against fraud was that some early actors against fraud expected to take a hit when they took action against fraud, but then didn’t. [They] took action and actually ended up attracting more buyers. So actually being empowered within a publisher to say ‘no, I don’t accept this type of ad format,’ is a way forward," he added.

Meanwhile, Jim Daily, president of Teads USA and Canada, (pictured above, second from left) also weighed in on the debate when he compared the industry’s current approach to ad blocking to the way society approaches global warming.

“We know global warming is an issue, we know it is upon us. We know we need to make seismic changes. But until lower Manhattan is under water, nothing big is going to happen,” he said.

“Ultimately, until the quality of content becomes significantly affected, basically until the New York Times can’t publish quality journalism anymore, are we going to see a seismic shift in consumer behavior, because the consumer understands why advertising exists in the first place.”

Minda Smiley

Minda Smiley is a reporter at The Drum covering creativity and advertising. Based in Philadelphia, she primarily covers independent agencies and B2B marketing. She also oversees The Drum’s “Independent Influence,” a weekly series that spotlights the work, perspectives and inspirations behind independent agencies. During her time at The Drum, she has covered industry events including SXSW, ANA Masters of Marketing, 4A’s Transformation and C2 Montréal. She is a graduate of the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism.

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