Ad Blocking More Like Climate Change than the Adpocalypse, says PageFair

Pagefair Ryan
PageFairs Johnny Ryan (standing) shares ad blocking stats with delegates at the INMA World Congress yesterday

The current trend towards ad blocking is more like climate change than the ‘adpocalypse’ it is often compared to; the growth in ad blocking by consumers is linear rather than exponential.

That was the key takeaway from a presentation given yesterday at the International News Media Association (INMA) World Congress in London by Johnny Ryan, head of ecosystem at PageFair, who said that one of the principal reasons why consumers are blocking ads is because they can.

“Advertising has cannibalised itself,” Ryan said. “The genie is out of the bottle and the bottle is slowly becoming more toxic.”

But while a growing number of publishers are choosing to block the ad blockers, Ryan said this is at best a short-term solution. “You hear that the messages asking people to turn off their ad blockers are seeing success rates of 40 – 10 per cent, and that sounds good, but it means that publishers are turning away 90 – 60 per cent of those people.”

Instead, Ryan suggested that publishers would do better to reduce the amount of ad clutter on their sites, and show ads that are more contextually relevant to the content around them in order to combat the desire among consumers to deploy ad blockers.

In a panel debate following his presentation, in response to a question from Mobile Marketing, Ryan also threw cold water on the idea that mobile operators would be allowed to deploy ad blocking technology from Israeli company Shine – Three in the UK has already announced plans to do so – since it uses DPI (Deep Packet Inspection) in order to block ads at the network level, something that new network neutrality rules will make illegal across the EU by the end of the year.  “Unless Britain leaves the EU, there will be no DPI-based ad blocking happening here,” Ryan said.

Also on the panel was Piers North, strategy director at Trinity Mirror. He agreed with Ryan that the ad blocking problem has been blown out of proportion, but disagreed that overtly blocking the ad blockers was no more than a short-term solution.

“Ads have to be part of the solution,” North said. “If consumers are not willing to pay, there has to be a way to fund the content and consumers have to understand that fact. There is no consequence to ad blocking right now so we need to create some and explain the value exchange… We should also understand that the stuff we do is valued by users. In the UK you can just use the BBC and never see an ad, but 30m people a month still come to our sites.”

He also rejected the idea that the solution was simply to create better ads, saying: “I don’t believe you can ‘good ad’ your way out of this situation” and later adding: “It’s not about good ads. If Picasso were alive today he could create great ads and they would still get blocked.”

North also said that publishers needed to tidy up the entire ecosystem. “As a publisher you can be rewarded for doing the wrong thing,” he said. “We are in a busted ecosystem. For example, we know that consumers don’t want pre-rolls, but I’m not sure any publisher would turn off pre-roll right now.”