Time to take the call - adblocking goes mobile

2:22 PM, 29 June 2016

Adblocking. What the numbers reveal:

People do not have patience while on their mobiles -- twice as many people are blocking ads on mobile browsers than on desktops worldwide. At least 419 million people globally are blocking ads on smartphones. China, India and Indonesia are reporting 319 million active ad blocker browsers as of March this year.

According to a report by Juniper released earlier this week, it is estimated ad blocking would cost publishers almost $28 billion (US) per year by 2020. The report includes a warning that: "The next billion Internet users will come online via low bandwidth, relatively expensive mobile connections and with readily-available mobile ad blocking technologies. The next billion Internet users may be invisible to digital marketers".

Sean Blanchfield, CEO and co-founder of PageFair, highlighted to WFA that "22% of the world's 1.9 billion smartphone users are blocking ads. The 'Blocked Web' is growing steadily, and in-app ads are now vulnerable too."

This research offers an unequivocal insight into people's attitudes towards and efforts to avoid online advertising, particularly on mobile devices.

Risky times ahead?

Advertising may pay for news, content, maps, messaging and social media platforms but people fail to make the link. Adblocking puts all of these benefits at risk. Left unaddressed, brands, publishers and people all stand to lose out.

Brands must focus on the causes in order to find sustainable solutions. People are not to blame. The industry must look at itself. David Wheldon, CMO at RBS and WFA President, is clear that "the industry needs to reflect on the rise of ad blocking. Advertising has always been cultural wallpaper and we have a duty of care to make it as attractive and engaging as possible so that people enjoy it, not want to shut it out."

As the new findings were announced, the WFA called for the industry to take action. The WFA envisages a three point process involving the creation of international standards for digital advertising, allowing consumers to establish clear preferences for the advertising they are willing to see and then regularly monitoring their responses.

It is essential that any action must have at its heart the consumer experience. The WFA is working with third parties to identify granular data around formats, frequencies and the volume of advertising which people no longer accept. The findings will differ by demographics and geographies although there are likely to be some commonalities in terms of what triggers people to block ads.

WFA has already begun to identify the most credible methods of gathering consumer data and will begin to act on such information over the coming months. This process presents an opportunity which fits into leading brands' overall strategies.

What''s the plan?

Luis Di Como, Senior Vice-President of Global Media at Unilever and member of the WFA Executive Committee, noted how, "as an industry we need to focus on creating content that is authentic, relevant for consumers and drives talkability - creative that enhances rather than detracts from users' online experiences. We have an ambition to create a billion one-to-one relationships with our consumers through providing positive brand experiences."

In parallel, the WFA will bring together a broader coalition, particularly with leading publishers, to work together to take coordinated action at a global level. This is designed to support and enhance local initiatives which are already emerging.

Stephan Loerke added that: "Brand owners must take a long-term view and envisage an acceptable and sustainable online advertising environment. Our vision is an ecosystem where brands, publishers and the entire supply chain put people first."

Roel de Vries, CMO at Nissan and also a WFA Executive Committee member, hit a note of optimism that the industry will rise to the challenge. "It is our responsibility to reach our customers with strong content they are interested in via channels they choose. If we do our job well, we will always be able to reach them," he noted.

What's your take on adblocking? Do we hold a responsibility as advertisers to provide better quality? What's your prediction for 2020? All feedback, queries, and opinions are welcomed to lindsay@anza.co.nz

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