The future of adblocking: can restriction create better results?

8:54 AM, 20 May 2016


It is easy to see why so many are fearful of adblocking.

Without advertising revenue, it becomes problematic to sustain content creation. In light of this, it is tempting to turn to technological workarounds that ignore the underlying issues that gave rise to ad blockers in the first place. Too often ads were intrusive and lacked quality. So does the rise of the adblocker provide an opportunity here to reconsider?

Battle of the block?

According to Tom Goodwin, senior VP-strategy and innovation at Havas Media, the solutions currently proposed against adblocking represent less in the way of creative solutions and look more like a battle:

  • Adblocking companies allow whitelisting of ads they deem of "high-enough quality" while accepting payments for the service.

  • Some sites block entry from those with adblockers, such as Forbes.

  • Others allow you to access their sites and continue to use adblocking software for an amount so high it feels more like reparation than a business model.

  • Facebook, meanwhile, is increasingly trying to take the entire internet within its walled garden where it can monetise attention on publishers' behalves - that's if mobile operators such as Three don't strip it out. It's all tense, aggressive, but most of all unprogressive.

So how have we responded?

Publishers in Sweden have recently united against adblockers and are in the process of collectively thwarting the adblockers this upcoming August in the hopes of improving advertising by standardising formats.

But rather than battle adblocking, couldn't we embrace these restrictions? Constraints, after all, can make you more creatively effective. So, how about we change the paradigm and look to play to advertising's strengths?

Goodwin argues that it's time for advertising executives to create a solution for all stakeholders. He sees things going four ways:

1. Premium advertising

The abundance of inventory (which isn't constrained and merely gets larger as we spend more time online) has created a vicious circle. Ads are cheap, production budgets low, poor results follow, which leads to more cheap ads. The standard is too low; we need to reverse this cycle. To have fewer, better-produced ads would serve everyone's interests.

2. Personalised advertising

The only thing people hate more than targeted ads are irrelevant ads. If people understood that some anonymised browsing data would be used to serve them fewer, more relevant, more valuable ads, there could be a trade off that helps all. There are moments we're oddly open to learning about a new airline route, seeing a car's interior or knowing more about the latest 4K TV.

3. Beyond native advertising

There is an expectation for a rise in integration between brands and content. From product placement tools such as Mirriad in popular videos to brands inserting themselves in sitcom storylines to Uber's functional integration with Google Maps or Washington Post's integration with the Amazon Echo. We're talking about a whole series of creative units that go beyond current thinking.

4. A new way to work, think, produce and measure

This new way of thinking demands we revise techniques to monitor success that increasingly don't apply to this world.

Premium ads would look vastly and indulgently expensive in a race for lower cost per impressions (CPMs). We may have to measure their success over brand metrics rather than clicks since the content may be brand-building but not immediately action-driving.

What's next?

Observant players are re-evaluating how brands will reach, connect and motivate users in the future. Emphasis should also be placed on how content creators will reconnect the advertising experience to the user in a logical and seamless way.

The advertising industry and publishers now have a great opportunity ahead of them as users want an improved ad experience that is less intrusive and more relevant to their daily lives.

So why not give it to them?

Is adblocking a blessing in disguise or a road block for the future of advertising? Should we rethink our advertising strategy to accommodate a better ad experience for consumers? All feedback, queries, and opinions are welcomed to

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