The Future of Ad Blockers

Ad blockers are a touchy subject for people in the digital marketing business. A profusion of pop-up ads in the early days of online advertising gave rise to browser extensions to block ads, and to consumer complaints. As a result there’s a school of thought that says advertising will die, replaced by social sharing and a new movement called Vendor Relations Management, written about most recently by Doc Searls, one of the authors of “The Cluetrain Manifesto.”

Searls tries to prove his point by demonstrating that ad blocking software is used by a percentage of people in every country:

In May of this year, ClarityRay reported that the overall rate of ad blocking by users was 9.26% in the U.S. and Europe. The rate ranged from 6.11% for business and finance sites to 15.58% for news sites and 17.79% for tech sites. For some sites, ad blocking reached 50%. Ad blocking is highest in Europe, where Austria is tops with a 22.5% ad blocking rate. The U.S. is slightly below average at 8.72%. With 1% or less are Iran, Guyana, Kuwait, Myanmar and Qatar.

Notice that business and financial ads are blocked least. That is because the information on those sites is perceived as having high value. If the content is valuable, consumers assume the ads, too, are more valuable, and won’t block them as often.

Which leads us to the other school of thought: that advertising will change to be more accurately targeted and more useful to the consumer.

At ZEDO, we have been more active than many of our colleagues and competitors in industry initiatives against bad ads and annoying ads. We offer an opt-out for the behaviorally targeted ads we serve. But if you ask us whether advertising will die, we have to say no, because consumers need information to buy, and that information can’t always be provided by friends. Friends can make recommendations and referrals, which has always been the case, but imagine Ford or Unilever trying to roll out a new product using only the recommendations of friends. It would simply take too long, be too expensive, and the results would be insufficiently measurable. No matter how well Facebook, Yelp, and Get Glue work, they won’t replace advertising any time soon.

Rather, we think advertising will become more informative, more entertaining and less intrusive by shifting to high quality especially TV style ads on the web. The video which can be seen on the same page as whatever content the reader is already consuming distract users less. And interested users who like what they see can choose to view the video in full screen. The video formats we serve make advertising over all less interruptive and more pleasant. Our On-Page video formats are gaining quick and broad acceptance with premium publishers for this reason. Better yet, our new formats guarantee 99% viewable impressions.

Advertisers have to learn how to make online advertising as compelling as TV. We think this can happen, and we’re willing to partner with everyone who is trying.