September 14, 2015
Originally Published on eBayEnterprise.com
This is the first blog in our series on AdBlock software. Stay tuned for part 2, coming soon.
Adblock is an interesting addition to the online advertising space, and while the challenges it presents are not inconsequential, it also offers publishers and advertisers with an opportunity to create a better digital advertising experience overall for consumers. The question that remains is: will brands make the move away from the ads we know today, sooner rather than later?
Ad blocker software is typically a plugin that works within a browser to block advertisements on webpages. That can include a variety of different ads such as display ads on a site page, paid search ads, or video advertisements prior to other videos. Adblock and Adblock Plus from Eyeo are two of the most popular ad blocking software options, with approximately 144 million users (nearly 5% of all global Internet users). According to Adblock’s monitoring service PageFair, 41% of internet users ages 18-29 have tried it, and the majority of usage is happening on Chrome and Firefox browsers.
The success of Adblock is due primarily to the fact that the experience of browsing on the Internet with this software activated is impressively better than it is without it, and this is because webpages are able to load at a much higher speed. By blocking ads, Adblock effectively removes much of the process that happens when a page loads and an advertisement makes its way from marketer to consumer on a webpage. Instead of users having to wait for not only the content in which they are interested to load, but also for the bidding on and loading of an advertising space, users are only really waiting for their content. This adds up to getting back up to about 25% of all internet bandwidth, according to a recent study conducted at the Simon Fraser Institute in British Columbia. For users, this means not only faster load times but also fewer crashes and the ability to open multiple browser tabs without facing spinning wheels or hourglasses while each page loads.
Adblock has monetized its software by allowing certain websites to be whitelisted if they have “Acceptable Ads.” If “acceptable,” Adblock then charges those websites a fee that amounts to approximately 30% of the additional ad revenues that the sites will make from the unblocked ads. Big tech companies like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft are better able to afford these costs, but many publishers consider this exchange a sort of “shakedown” or “extortion” on the part of Eyeo. “Small” websites are not charged, however Adblock does not provide a definition for which websites fall in the “small” category and which do not.
With 25% of mobile web browsing going through its Safari browser, Apple is also getting in on the ad blocking game. With the release of iOS 9, users will be able to choose if they want to block all ads seen through their phone’s Safari web browser. Some view this as Apple pushing publishers toward a greater app focus, as it will make it harder for them to pay for their sites without this advertising and thus, make those apps and the advertising space available there more attractive. When you consider the fact that Apple makes more money from the App Store than from the mobile web, this makes sense.
While many publishers and advertisers are concerned with this ad policing, other experts in the space believe that it is really the start of a better Internet where users aren’t forced to view the sporadic and often irrelevant forms of advertising that consumers are used to seeing today. Pop-up or autoplay ads that consumers already ignore will be blocked. Advertisers will be pushed to create an alternative solution that will engage consumers rather than badger them. Alison Ebbecke, an assistant professor of advertising at Temple University, summarizes this well: “advertising will continue to exist in a smaller form, even if the packaging or delivery looks slightly unfamiliar.”
To address ad blocker software give greater consideration to native advertising. This is because native advertising can extend across both desktop and mobile to deal with and work around ad blocker technology, as well as enhance the user experience.
Secondly, explore how apps might support your overall business goals. While apps are becoming increasingly important for consumers and mcommerce, the issue of app fatigue still does exist. Brands will want to evaluate their consumer’s objectives with the brand and ensure that they are aligned with the overall app strategy. If an app doesn’t seem to be a good fit for a brand, or more importantly its consumers, and if that brand more commonly acts as an advertiser than a publisher, then the best next step may not be to create an app, but to look further into how they can work with other third-party apps, such as social sites, to optimize their own advertising experience for consumers.
If a brand is primarily a publisher, they will need to think both about how their consumers want to interact with their content to combat the effects of Adblock, and also about how they will want to interact with the advertising content being published on their app. Loyal customer bases will be the first consumer group to look at for these insights as they are most likely to be your first new app users. If a brand already has an app, then they should think increasingly about their notifications strategy and using that as an advertising asset as well.
Edwards, Jim. “I used the software that people are worrying will destroy the web – and now I think they might be right,” Business Insider. http://www.businessinsider.com/adblock-software-how-it-will-change-the-adtech-publisher-market-2015-7. July 2015.
Edwards, Jim. “People are seriously talking about whether Apple’s new ad blocking technology for iPhone will destroy the web,” Business Insider. http://www.businessinsider.com/how-apple-ad-block-in-safari-and-ios-9-will-affect-publishers-and-advertisers-2015-6?r=UK. June 2015.
Eyeo. “Adblock Plus: Surf the Web Without Annoying Ads!” Adblock Plus. https://adblockplus.org/. August 2015.
Hern, Alex. “Adblock Plus: The tiny plugin threatening the internet’s business model,” The Guardian. http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/oct/14/the-tiny-german-company-threatening-the-internets-business-model. October 2013.
Rubin, Julia Lynn. “Native Advertising: The Adblock Antidote?” Contently. http://contently.com/strategist/2014/07/02/native-advertising-the-adblock-antidote/. July 2014.
Smith, Dave. “Ad blocking software is on the rise and that has major implications for digital media,” Business Insider. http://www.businessinsider.com/ad-blocking-software-is-on-the-rise-2015-2. February 2015.
Wurmser, Yory. “Six Trends in the Shifting World of Mcommerce,” eMarketer. http://www.emarketer.com/Webinar/Six-Trends-Shifting-World-of-Mcommerce/4000114. Webinar. July 2015.
 It’s important to note that this study was funded by Adblock Plus.