Read our new manifesto

Explore our new sections and topics

Pro-ad blocking ad calls for ‘zero-rating’

Ironically ad blocking outfit Shine Technologies has now taken to advertising to promote its cause, issuing a plea to mobile operators in a move that introduces a new element to the debate.

Ad blockers are now appealing to consumers’ wallets in order to justify their disruption of the advertising industry, claiming their activities are an act of “consumer protectionism”, and that mobile operators should charge third parties for the data costs associated with delivering ads.

Ad blocking is hardly new to the industry, but the matter is coming to a head, and in no small part due to Israel-based Shine Technologies, a company that has done much to put the matter on the pages of the mainstream press in recent weeks.

And yesterday (7 September) that took a new twist, with the ad blocking outfit booking a full page ad in the FT, claiming mobile ads consume up to 50 per cent of smartphone users’ mobile data allowance (see above), and that the industry should fight back against the status quo.

“Advertisers make billions in mobile advertising. Consumers should not have to subsidise their business,” it reads.

Plea to mobile operators

The ad goes on to implore mobile operators – via way of an appeal to their trade body the GSMA - to ‘zero-rate’ these data costs (i.e. pass the cost of handling the data on its network on to a third party) in an act of what it calls “consumer protection”.

Shine Technologies’ differs from most other blockers on the market – most of which are browser plug-ins that block an ad from being served to a user – whereas it specifically offers mobile operators technologies that grants them the ability to block the delivery of ads at a network level.

This service can be made available to subscribers as a premium service, with the outfit claiming to have inked several contracts with Europe-based mobile operators (although it has declined to have publicly announce specific names).

Ad blockers have often been criticised by those in the industry for participating in ‘blackmail and extortion’ as they detract from the monetary reward that ad funded publishers deserve for providing web audiences with content. Some would argue that this is forcing publishers to keep their content behind a paywall, therefore depriving audiences of otherwise free information, etc.

'Consumer protection'

However, the “consumer protection” element of the debate - where ads are eating up consumers’ data allowance, while third parties profit from this - lends weight to their argument.

It also raises the issue of the ethics of companies such as Facebook and Google generating billions of dollars from mobile ads, while network operators shoulder the burden of the traffic delivery costs.

Speaking recently at an IAB workshop debating the matter Ben Barokas, a vocal critic of such companies, and chief executive of anti-ad blocking firm Sourcepoint, did concede the end-user benefits of installing ad blocking software.

Plus, Steve Chester, the Interactive Advertising Buereau UK's director of data and industry programmes, also told attendees how a field test of ad blockers on mobile phones resulted in an average reduction of several seconds in the page load times of devices that had installed such an ad blocker. This indicates that the ads were consuming a significant amount of the consumers’ data.

Cost

The issue of ad blocking has generated high-profile debate in recent months, with Apple introducing the ability to block ads on its iOS 9 update, plus over 10 per cent of UK web users estimated to have installed such software, according to several studies.

This is forecast to cost the advertising industry an estimated $41bn a year in 2017.