Who might act first to avoid the adblockalypse?

by Nigel Hollis | October 28, 2015

Everyone in the industry seems to be talking about ad blocking, but people have always avoided ads, and it is not just an issue with digital media. WARC reports a survey by BuzzCity that finds that 30 percent of consumers change channels on the TV or radio to minimize exposure to ads. The real question is, will anyone do anything to improve consumer receptivity?

Unfortunately, ad blocking is just one issue facing digital media right now. As noted in this piece by Bob Wootton, director of media and advertising at ISBA, the world of digital advertising might best be described as “unsafe, unviewable, fraudulent, blocked and badly targeted”. However, while media agencies focus on viewability, I think the major issue remains consumer receptivity. The latest AdReaction study shows that people are most receptive to video ads that are based on their interests (41 percent receptive) or preferred brands (40 percent receptive). They are most negative about video that reaches them that they don’t control, and yet more and more ads are designed to force attention instead of inviting it.


It feels like digital advertising is a bubble waiting to burst. Never before has so much been invested for so little obvious return. Click through is running at somewhere around a quarter of one percent and, when advertisers bother to measure it, impact in our Brand Lift Insights and CrossMedia studies varies wildly, often appearing to undermine the advertised brand not strengthen it. Surely at some point someone is going to realize the emperor getting stripped down to his briefs?

I don’t see the ad exchanges or media agencies making the call, because they have too much to gain by increasing ad traffic, so it seems to me that one of two parties might make the call first:

Advertisers, realizing that there is no better alternative, might band together and demand effective control of the amount and placement of ad inventory to limit both the decline in receptivity and fraud. Some are already imposing their individual solutions to ad fraud, L’Oréal, for instance, is apparently holding publishers and exchanges liable for ad fraud and other problems. If that happens then life will continue as normal, only with fewer and more relevant and engaging ads.

Publishers might finally realize that it is in their own best interests to limit ad placement before their audience gets so annoyed that it resorts to ad blockers. Bild, the German tabloid is reported to have offered readers the option of turning off their ad blocker or pay a subscription fee to see largely ad-free content. It will be interesting to see how successful this approach will play out, given that there is still a ton of free content out there; maybe the smarter publishers will realize that less intrusive and more relevant advertising could actually be a competitive advantage, as people seek out safer surfing neighborhoods.

So what do you think will happen? Will anyone make the call and if so, who? Please share your thoughts.