A couple years ago, ad blockers started the ongoing war against digital advertisers. To many, applications like AdBlock Plus can be seen as a savior, rescuing helpless consumers from a sea of unwanted ads. On the other hand, ad revenue is what keeps free content free.
In the midsts of all the conflict, major companies are taking their sides, for ad blocking or against. In favor of ad blocking, we have Opera introducing the first internet browser to automatically block ads. Also, Samsung and Google teamed up to add an AdBlock Plus application for Android mobile browsing. In our corner, we have Yahoo restricting AdBlock users and YouTube giving them a hard time as well.
With the digital world divided, is it possible for marketers and adblockers to come together and find some common ground? In order to come to a fair conclusion, it’s important to take a look at how it all began.
The current state of the digital ad world is a mess. There is an over-saturation of ads that hurts everyone involved. Advertisers are spending on ads that may ultimately go unnoticed and web users are bombarded with unsightly ads while browsing.
Research from PageFair about AdBlock users gives some interesting insight. Their data shows that adblock users are more likely to click on ads than non-users. In some cases, they’re even twice as likely click. Their theory is that AdBlock users are cured of banner blindness, and as a result are more engaged.
Ultimately, the original thought behind AdBlock Plus does sound nice. But we need to look at the big picture: sites that provide free content are really hurting. Their main source of revenue is under attack.
Not quite a compromise
As a result, AdBlock Plus offers a sweet-seeming deal for advertisers. Acceptable Ads: A chance advertisers can gain visibility back and bypass AdBlock Plus filter. All companies have to do is abide by certain criteria and pay up to become whitelisted.
From an outsider's perspective, Acceptable Ads seems like a compromise. Certain ads are allowed that aren’t disruptive to users. But in reality, how pure are their intentions? Using consumer dissatisfaction with ads as leverage to keep advertisers at their mercy, AdBlock Plus has put themselves in prime position.
Backlash at SXSW
Recently they’ve been under fire for this. At SXSW 2016 Lewis DVorkin, chief product officer at Forbes Media, spoke out for those in the ad business. In the panel he called out the Acceptable Ads program for being "blackmail”.
In response, AdBlock Plus made vague hints about a new app in the works. To appease angry marketers, they claim that “good content will be rewarded”. With no other word on what this all means, the world will just have to wait and see.
The Battle Continues
All in all, digital ad world was in need of a change. One thing we can all agree on is: annoying ads need to stop. Ad blocking has definitely played a role in shaking things up. AdBlock Plus has an exponentially growing user base, and to fight back some sites are starting to experiment with banning their users.
The question still remains: can digital marketers and AdBlock Plus one day live in harmony? What are your thoughts?