ISBA labels Three’s ad blocking move as a ‘potential disaster’

ISBA, the trade body representing brand-side marketers, has reacted to this week’s news that Three is to implement an ad blocking trial next month, by claiming that a full implementation of the technology would be “disastrous for the mobile advertising ecosystem”.

Three yesterday (26 May) lifted the lid on its plans to block ads served across its network with technical trials kicking off next month, following on from an announcement made earlier this year.

Despite claims to the contrary, the mobile operator claims it’s a scheme towards driving customer loyalty rather than a push into the advertising game, with the operator claiming mobile users should not pay data charges to receive adverts, rather: “These costs should be borne by the advertiser.”

Understandably, the move has caused much chagrin in the industry. When speaking to The Drum, Nigel Gwilliam, a consultant on emerging media and technologies at the IPA, cast doubt on the consumer-friendly claims of the technology employed by Three on the trial (called Deep Packet Inspection), labelling it as “alarmingly invasive”.

Now ISBA has waded into the debate, and while acknowledging Three is within its rights to monetise its network, has labelled the move as a worrying development, especially if other mobile network operators follow suit.

Mark Finney, ISBA’s director of media and advertising, told The Drum: “This would be disastrous for the mobile advertising ecosystem and a serious blow for our members. As an industry we are working hard to find solutions to the problem of ad-blocking.

“It may be that the new EU Telecommunications Single Market Regulation will make ISP ad blocking illegal at network level across the EU, however we must accelerate our efforts to tackle some of the root causes of the problem – poor quality, intrusive and irrelevant advertising.”

Similarly, Steve Chester, director of data and industry programmes, at the IAB, also disapproved of Three’s approach, adding that it would likely have a detrimental effect on long-tail publishers, and that a wider adoption of the stance would also see consumers lose out.

He said: “We're engaging with Three on this topic, and remain convinced the best way to solve ad blocking is everyone getting behind the "L.E.A.N" ad standards initiative. This addresses the reasons why people block ads in the first place, and is about providing a lighter, less invasive ad experience, whilst providing consumers with choice.”

Others have suggested that Three’s move is just the first step towards implementing an ‘ad serving tax’ where advertisers will have to pay an additional $0.01 fee telcos impose on the average CPM to let ads run via their gateway.

Meanwhile, for its part, Three maintains its move is not an ‘anti-advertising’ approach, and that it plans to work with the industry to fix the currently “broken” mobile advertising model.

“We can only achieve change by working with all stakeholders in the advertising industry – customers, advertising networks and publishers – to create a new form of advertising that is better for all parties.”

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