What Happened Eyeo GmbH, the company behind the popular adblocker Adblock Plus, is launching an ad exchange called Acceptable Ads Platform, enabling publishers to “choose from a marketplace of pre-whitelisted ads that they can drag and drop onto their sites.” The platform, which Eyeo created in partnership with ad tech firm ComboTag, promises to cut the whitelisting process from weeks to seconds. Advertisers will also be able to buy the whitelisted ad space through Google’s and AppNexus’ ad exchanges. (Update 9/14: Google and AppNexus have withdrawn their involvement in this effort.)
Why Brands Should Care This new ad exchange offers brand advertisers a way to reach adblocker users, which is especially valuable for brands seeking specific audience segments where adblocker usage is high, such as young Millenials, high-earners, and the tech-savvy. While the irony of an ad-blocking software company selling ads itself is not lost, this development nevertheless highlights the ongoing tension between advertisers, publishers, and adblocker makers as they fight for control over the online ad experience.
What Happened By the end of next year, about a third of internet users in the States will be blocking ads, up from 20% in 2015, according to a recent eMarketer study (paywalled link). The study, which defines an ad-blocker user as “an internet user who accesses the internet at least once a month via any device that has an ad-blocker enabled,” also estimates that 26.3% of U.S. netizens are using an ad blocker this year. The silver lining here, however, seems to be that the growth rate of ad-blocker users is gonna slow down a bit, declining from 35% to 24% next year.
For brand advertisers, this means two things. First, brands need to work closely with agencies and media owners to take full advantage of the digital tools available to create leaner ads, deliver a less clustered ad experience, and ensure the viewability of their ads. Second, brands should also try exploring some non-conventional ad formats such as event sponsorships, branded content, or native advertising to reach consumers who have opted to block ads.
What Happened In February, we noted that Israeli-based, ad tech startup Shine formed a partnership with Three Group, a British wireless carrier that also operates in select European markets such as Italy and Denmark, to help the latter block in-app and mobile browser ads at the network level. Today, the Berkshire, U.K.-based carrier announced it is moving forward with the initiative, planning to call for interested customers to sign up for the trial, which will take place in mid-June. For Three, the decision to move forward with the testing is about appealing to consumers’ increasing frustration with mobile ads as well as their growing demand for privacy and reducing data usage.
What Brands Need To Do If widely implemented, ad-blocking at the network level would prevent most mobile ads from loading, causing severe issues for digital publishers and, to a lesser extent, to online advertisers and brands that rely on reaching customers via mobile platforms. While it remains to be seen whether other carriers will pick up this practice, brands need to take a proactive approach in dealing with the rise of ad-blockers. One good way to do so is to explore new formats of digital ads, such as sponsoring online events and livestreams and producing branded content. Also, since Shine’s software won’t affect in-feed ads on social networks, brands may consider increasing their social ad spend.
What Happened In recent months, ad-blocking has become a hot topic among advertisers and online publishers, thanks to Apple’s decision of adding ad-blocking Safari extensions in iOS 9. According to a report from Adobe and PageFair, ad-blockers have claimed 198 million active global users as of June 2015, and that number is expected to double by the end of this year. Therefore, it is no surprise that some major online publishers have started taking active measures to fight off ad-blockers with varied degrees of aggressiveness. Here’s a roundup.
• Forbes and GQ are among the most forceful in their stance against ad-blocking. The two sites have been preventing ad-blocker users from accessing their content completely, instead displaying a page asking them to disable their ad blockers or join their memberships.
• Slate is taking a slightly gentler approach, nudging its readers to turn off their ad-blockers or sign up for membership with a subtle banner at the bottom of its pages. The publisher is also reportedly working on eliminating intrusive ads on its site.
• Huffington Post is working with parent company AOL’s user experience team to monitor its sites and remove ads that are deemed intrusive or dissatisfactory, while also making sure its native ads are clearly disclosed. It has also set up a task force to learn about ad-blocker usage on a global scale.
• Bloomberg also aims to fight ad-blockers by focusing on improving the ad experience for readers, cleaning up its ad placement and design with more white space, less animation and more lower-case fonts.
• Imgur is hoping to make a case for disabling ad-blockers on it site by delivering true user value with its native ads. The image-sharing site is pairing advertisers with its in-house creatives to ensure the messaging and design are fit for its site.
What Brands Need To Do As online publishers experiment with various ways to combat ad-blocking and attempt to reclaim their lost ad revenues, brands also need to figure out a communications strategy that will get their brand messages across and not blocked. While denying access may work wonders in the short-term (Forbes cites 44% of users complied and disabled their ad-blockers for access), it is hardly a sustainable approach. Instead, brands need to work on winning the consumer trust with more than just annoying pop-ups or intrusive interstitials. Actively working with content partners to create branded content that are entertaining, engaging, or informative would be the key to convince today’s consumers to turn off their ad-blockers.
Welcome to the Lab’s year-end review, looking back at some of our best and most popular posts from 2015.
Ever since Apple added support for content-blocking Safari extensions to iOS 9, ad-blockers rocketed to the front pages and become a hot topic among advertisers and online publishers. While the scope of its impact may still be up for debate, one thing is undeniable: today’s tech-savvy consumers are starting to realize they can avoid ads by using ad-blockers. How will your brand cope? Here are some actionable suggestions from the Lab.
What Happened On Tuesday, Mozilla launched an iOS content blocker named Focus by Firefox, promising to block out all tracking codes on mobile webpages. It will most certainly wipe out the ads as well, given that most online ads today have some sort of tracking code built in.
What Brands Need To Do Following Apple’s decision to allow ad-blocking extensions in iOS 9, a handful of ad-blocking apps have been making waves among mobile users. While it is still debatable how much damage it will do to online publishers and advertisers, there is no denying that today’s consumers are becoming increasingly aware that they are being tracked, and that personal data holds value to advertisers. Therefore, publishers and ad tech providers will have to figure out new ways to acquire the audience data they need for retargeting and analytics. For one, offering consumers added value to incentivize them to volunteer their personal information and data is a good way to bypass the rising trend of ad avoidance.
What Happened Facing mounting pressure of the rapid adoption of ad blocking technologies, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) introduced the L.E.A.N. Ads program — the acronym standing for Light, Encrypted, Ad choice supported, Non-invasive — on Thursday. It is meant to provide advertisers with a set of principles intended to “guide the next phases” of technical standards for the digital advertising supply chain. With L.E.A.N. Ads, the IAB hopes to increase ad efficiency, address the volume of ads per page, as well as continue on the path to viewability, which it also sets the industry standard for.
What Agencies Need To Do As ad-blockers continue to gain momentum among users, agencies should feel incentivized to figure out ways to actively respond to the challenges that ad-blocking brings. The L.E.A.N. Ads program provides a good reference that advertisers should take into consideration. For more actionable suggestions on how advertisers can deal with the rise of ad-blockers, click here to read our in-depth Fast Forward analysis on this hot topic.
What Happened On Friday, Adblock was sold to an unnamed new owner and now supports EyeO’s acceptable advertising — which allows advertisers to buy their way onto the whitelist — through the filter. Boasting over 40 million users, Adblock is among one of the most popular ad-blocking browser extensions in Chrome and Safari for the desktop.
What Brands Need To Do This mysterious change of ownership comes at an interesting time when the advertising and media industry debate over the impacts of widespread usage of ad-blockers, largely thanks to Apple’s recently added support for ad-blocking Safari extensions, allowing iOS users to block ads in their mobile browser for the first time. For brands, Adblock’s new whitelisting feature presents a way to bypass the obstacle and reach a highly coveted key demo, as study shows that ad-blocker usage is highest among high-earning Millennials. Therefore, brands should work with agencies to seize the opportunity and ensure the ad networks of choice are on the whitelist.
What Happened The perils that Apple’s ad-blocking extension in iOS 9 inflicted on digital publishers has been well–documented, but one lesser-known impact of those ad-blockers is that it can cause problems with retailers’ ecommerce sites. According to Fortune’s hands-on experiments, multiple major retailers’ digital sales channels would be negatively impacted when popular iOS ad-blocker Crystal is enabled.
The damage varies from site to site: Sears and Walgreens would have an entire webpage wipes out, whereas mobile sites of Lululemon and Walmart lose functioning online shopping carts with Crystal enabled. This is likely a result of some retailers using ad servers as part of their web platform to aid in retargeting, which in turn caused adblockers to wipe out their actual content. What’s more, ad-blockers can also strip out backend shopper behavior-tracking codes like Google Analytics or Adobe’s Omniture, which some retailers rely on for real-time customer insights.
What Brands Need To Do Just as digital publishers have to get creative and move towards social and native ads in order to deal with the rise of ad-blockers, retailers too need to make it a priority to update the backend of their sites to prevent their web content from being misidentified as ads and getting blocked. Moreover, retailers should consider exploring social commerce enabled by buy buttons or, if resource permits, developing their own branded mobile apps, which the ad-blockers don’t affect, to offer customers a truly controlled mobile shopping experience.
Apple’s annual press event is set for 1 p.m. ET on Wednesday, September 9 in San Francisco, where the Cupertino-based company is expected to unveiled the next-gen iPhones, iPads, and even a new Apple TV. Here is a quick summary of what to expect from tomorrow’s big event and why brands should care:
iOS 9 To Arrive With Ad-Blockers It was announced back in June at Apple’s WWDC event that the new iOS 9 will allow developers to build content blocking extensions for Safari browser, which has led to a round of panic and debates over the impending popularization of ad-blockers among the ad industry and digital publishers. You can read our take on this issue and brand implications in our recent Fast Forward here.
New iPhones And iPad To Push Consumers Deeper Into Mobile As usual with Apple’s September events, the main star of the show would most likely be the new iPhones, which reportedly would be a minor upgrade with new features such as 3D Force Touch added in. More intriguingly, Apple is also reported to be launching a new line of tablets named iPad Pro, which will likely feature an impressive 12.9-inch display that can run 2 full-sized apps side by side. Together, we expect these new devices to usher today’s consumers deeper into the mobile-first age and away from desktops and TVs, and brands would be wise to follow where the audience is going.
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