Headlines in ad avoidance land

headlinesThe last week or so has reminded me again of just how different the ad avoidance landscape has become since Apple’s big content blocking move. Stories, analyses and reactions keep popping up daily, and the topic remains hot among marketers, techies and journalists. A number of new themes have arisen that deserve deeper attention, but for the moment, these are the top issues presently:

  • PageFair, a start-up that promises to help publications fight back against the ad blocking menace had to admit this week that they were hacked. As a result, their technology, as deployed on a number of publication websites served malware to readers. Needless to say, it is hard to imagine a more poignant demonstration of the cure being far worse than the disease. See The Economists statement here.
  • German publishers continue to push back against ad blocking, with an intensity not yet demonstrated from their Anglophone colleagues. Springer‘s experiment with an “ad wall” on their Bild website, controversial as its enforcement has been, is proving successful, at least according to the publisher. They claim that 2/3 of the ad block users turned them off when notified by the site, and that the site’s current ad blocking rate was in the “single digits.”
  • Another German publisher with no patience for ad blocking in general, and Eyeo in particular, is Sascha Pallenberg of mobilegeeks.de. Pallenberg has been a vocal critic of Ad Block Plus and its proprietors for some time, and attacked them again last week for using their “acceptable ads” filtering to let through a number of unsavory sites including porn and scam/virus sites. The fact that there may be a financial relationship between the sites and Eyeo allows Pallenberg to slam them for being hypocrites, at once protecting their users while at the same time taking money to serve them up to advertisers. Eyeo claimed it was merely a mistake, but there is no question that the ethics of the “acceptable ads” campaign is murky, to say the least.
  • Speaking of Eyeo, the German company met with a number of publishers and advertisers in New York last week, in a kind of “peace talk” between antagonistic forces. Apparently the discussion was civil if inconclusive. Fundamentally, Eyeo’s business model depends on their ability to get big advertisers to pay for the privilege of being including on their allowed filter lists, so an out-and-out conflict is not particularly helpful for them. In essence, Eyeo is bidding to become a trusted go-between, working with both users and publishers to enforce a style of advertising that both sides can live with. It is going to be a difficult tightrope walk, I suspect, and not likely to have a long staying power, but in the meantime, they have strong interests to develop compromises with advertisers.
  • One of the companies that is publicly known to pay Eyeo for exemption from filter lists is Google. They are also dealing with ad avoidance by providing YouTube users the option to pay for the privilege of not seeing ads via the YouTube Red subscription. And just to make the connection between ad avoidance and the subscription model clear, one of YouTube’s biggest stars, PewDiePie has been saying exactly that. For him and his peers, YouTube Red is a reaction to ad blockers and the best way to make up for lost revenue.

More longer form, in depth analysis of the crisis in advertising, mobile marketing and user revolt is occurring, thankfully. Three not to be missed pieces, that I hope to discuss in more detail are:

  • Doc Searls’ latest in his series of examinations of the broken customer-marketer relationship and how ad blocking is an understandable reaction
  • Frédéric Filloux’s latest in his series looking at how ad blocking will change the economics of online advertising, particularly in breaking the hold of adtech over online journalism
  • Ian Leslie’s dissection of the devastating fall of brand advertising in the face of digital adtech

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