IAB Declares War On Ad Blocking

While IAB believes something must be done about ad blocking, they are more in favor of providing advertisers with the tools to decide their own strategies.

Scott Cunningham, SVP of the Interactive Advertising Bureau and GM of the its Tech Lab believes there is a war going on. On the one side are ad blockers and on the other are brands and marketers trying to figure out how to survive with them, says Cunningham.

While SMBs, who tend to favor social media marketing over desktop and mobile banner ads, tend to have less to worry about in terms of ad blocking, enterprises who have begun to value the role of sending geo-targeted ads to consumers on-the-go may have to adjust their strategies.

Scott Cunningham, SVP of IAB

Speaking at a press conference at the IAB Mixx Conference, Cunningham and IAB took a firm stance against ad blockers and are doing everything they can to find an alternative solution, starting with making it easier for small publishers to detect ad blocking so they can make a decision on their next move from there.

“We are strongly against the use of ad blocking. We believe in the open, ad-supported business model,” Cunningham said.

With Apple’s announcement of ad blocking capabilities on iOS 9, the ad world has been abuzz with discussion of what this means for marketers and retailers. Cunningham painted a grim picture of ad blocking and the companies that provide the service, saying that they are “driving a wedge between publishers and the end consumers, siphoning off dollars” from that relationship and “holding publishers’ content hostage.”

“Ad blocking has the capability to stop mobile shopping in its tracks,” Cunningham said. “Some recent research showed that 3 out of 4 college students shop or search on their phones, but the next generation is going to have a hard time continuing that if ad blocking persists.

”While Cunningham believes that something must be done about ad blocking, IAB is not prepared to back a single solution. Instead, the company is focusing its resources on providing publishers, especially small publishers who are more in danger of having their ad revenue cut off, with the ability to detect when ads on their site are being blocked (Cunningham claimed that most ad blockers hide themselves so that publishers have no idea its even happening to them). From there, Cunningham stated that individual publishers would be able to respond to that knowledge however they pleased.

Some suggestions for what to do ranged from a simple dialogue box asking the customer to turn off their ad blocker or whitelist the site to limiting the content available to ad blocking consumers to outright disallowing a user to see or use the content at all until the ad blocker is turned off.

“People want to see the content,” Cunningham said. “But it’s a problem of not understanding the specifics of the relationship between publisher and consumer. Most don’t even realize how they’re harming the content providers.” Cunningham suggested advertisers educate consumers on the specifics of what they implicitly agree to by consuming ad-supported content.

Cunningham also acknowledged the appeal of ad blockers, especially in the face of cluttered or intrusive user experience some publishers provide. In that regard, he does suggest that advertisers work to make their ads and UX appealing to consumers. But while IAB does not place the blame heavily on consumers who use ad blocking, especially when they don’t fully understand the ramifications, the company has little sympathy for the ad blockers themselves.

“I challenge all ad blockers to declare themselves so that we can talk about this openly. Stop this cat and mouse game,” Cunningham said.

“What’s the incentive for them to do that?” a reporter asked.

Cunningham laughed. “To play nice.”

About The Author
Daniel Parisi Daniel Parisi @daniel_parisi_

Daniel Parisi is a New York City-based writer and recent graduate of the University of Maryland. Daniel specializes in coverage of mobile payments, loyalty programs, and the Internet of Things.