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Technology Adblocking Adblockers

Adblockers: Inconvenient, pesky and really bloody dangerous for agencies

By Alex Thoma | Account Director

March 16, 2017 | 5 min read

Just thinking about the quality of inventory – but this is tantamount to forgetting yesterday’s defeat and ignoring the problems of tomorrow.


Simon Kemp’s great video is clear in breaking down the factors behind why people are embracing ad blocking and has succinct references to contextualise the issues. The only thing I disagree with is the article’s sub-line “The Hidden Dangers of Ad Blocking”. I don’t think the dangers are hidden – they’re staring us straight in the eye and threatening to steal our lunch money and give us a wedgie. The cows are coming home to roost very soon unless we deliver positive new norms for the work we create with our partners.

An IAB study in July ‘16 identified that 26% of desktop Internet users turn on ad blockers. What I found astonishing about this isn’t that 1 in 4 people find ads intrusive and objectionable but that ad blocking has been called “highway robbery” by the GM of the IAB’s Technology Lab. There’s something Dick Turpin about how they operate but the key difference is that they are a product of demand and uptake is a direct result of the failings of advertisers and agencies to think about the consumer first.

Battle ad-blocking solutions all you want but it is a game of whack-a-mole.

And to do that we need to be better creatively, to strive to be bold for our partners, to make experiences and communications that people want to engage well whatever the medium and people will respond in kind. Ad-blockers are selling ads for the love of Spock!

And I don’t think we want to be working with the people trying to eat our lunch. We need to destroy the need state for ad blocking. How?

Content providers need to be more cognisant of the experience they are delivering to people. Bad ads contribute to poor user experiences. Creative needs to be held accountable for offensive execution. And brands have to think ‘people-first‘ and not navel gaze.

Mr. Kemp identified 5 key areas driving uptake of ad blockers – here are 4 suggestions of how we can flip the script to tackle the issues at hand. Why 4? I don’t think security is significant contributing factor.

FOCUS. Ads are disruptive and distracting. Solution. Don’t make disruptive ads. Make communications that address a consumer need state. Add value. It can be done – fight that urge to do just enough.

SPEED. Buffering is as stressful as math apparently. As an industry do we even think about the end user experience – or just our opinion of how we’ve communicated our message? Is heavy animation, smiling comp’d images of Getty talent, big ass file size quasi-malware the best vehicle for that? Use formats people prefer.

COSTS. Data = skrilla. Fair enough. But as a content provider here’s my advice – no money no honey. Ad-funded models in their current form are finished. Make good content and get lots of traffic and get premium inventory and rates etc… that’s all done. Gone. Get a smarter model right for your audience and create better user experiences where slicker ads can be a part of the environment.

INTEREST. Stop looking inwards and identify need states. I don’t believe all advertising can or should be utilitarian. Sometimes people are interested in a discount, sometimes brands need to shout about their new shit – context and quality of delivery are key.

I’m not saying anything we don’t already know about. But at every briefing, at every internal WIP or creative huddle, anytime we’re about to a campaign approved or hit the ‘go live’ button, when the client approves the content calendar and you know in your heart of hearts it is ‘meh’ – push back, listen to Mr. Kemp, make it better, challenge our partners, challenge yourself. Because if we don’t our client’s will never really understand the inherent value agency professionals offer. And because if we don’t then it’s game over.

Alex Thoma is account director, Singapore at APD.

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