The Looming Battle Over Ad Blocking

The Looming Battle Over
Ad Blocking

Part 1:  The Numbers

  • eMarketer projects that nearly 1/3 of American internet user will use an ad blocker by next year.
 2014  39.7 million 15.7%
 2015  51.9 million  20.0%
 2016  69.8 million  26.3%
 2017  86.6 million  32.0%
  • HubSpot reports that Ad-Blocking cost the advertising industry $22 Billion in 2015 and may cost up to $35 billion by 2020.

Users are inadvertently putting their favorite websites out of business – Sean Blanchfield

  • At the same time, 64% of consumers find online ads are annoying or intrusive.   Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) Senior VP for Technology and Ad operations, Scott Cunningham concedes:

As technologist, tasked with delivering content and services to users, we lost track of the user experience.   We build advertising technology to optimize publishers’ yield of marketing budgets that had eroded after the last recession.  Looking back now, our scraping of dimes may have cost us dollars in consumer loyalty.

Part 2:  The Battle

UK Culture Secretary John Whittingdale says Ad Blocking companies are acting as a “modern-day protection racket”.

Despite Mr. Cunningham’s comments, the IAB has been quite blunt in their assessment of the industry.   IAB CEO Randall Rothenberg calls programs such as AdBlock Plus (which allows companies to white list ads subject to a fee):

  • “an extortion-based business and hurts publishers;”  and
  • “[i]t is robbery, plain and simple,”

The IAB has issued a primer that recommends that publishers DEAL:

  • Detect ad blocking, in order to initiate a conversation
  • Explain the value exchange that advertising enables
  • Ask for changed behavior in order to maintain an equitable exchange
  • Lift restrictions or Limit access in response to consumer

However, as the blog IT Security explains, there is a question about whether the tools used to detect ad-blocking are permitted under EU Privacy laws – with one privacy activist warning of a looming battle.

At the same, a Medianomics survey of consumer websites found nearly half want the IAB or some other group to launch a legal challenge to the practice.  The problem is, however, is that the challenges so far have been limited to Europe and have been uniformly unsuccessful.



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  1. Pingback: CLBR #228: The Battle over Adblocking with PageFair’s Johnny Ryan – Cyber Law & Business Report

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