How Ad Blocking Will Save Us From Ourselves

Ad blocking has many a marketer panicking. But rather than crying, “Doomsday!” what if we took a minute to stop and think about “why.”

Consumers are so fed up with subpar, intrusive and irrelevant advertising that they are taking time out of their day to download ad-blocking software. That should tell marketers something! As an industry, we need to step up our game. The technology is at our fingertips. Programmatic advertising and its related tools and solutions make it easier than ever to find and identify your target audience, and to create and serve them messages that matter. There is no excuse not to use them or not to do your best to understand your customers and serve advertising that resonates. There is also no excuse for publishers to continue using disruptive ad units.

It’s too bad it had to come to this, but perhaps ad blocking is the wakeup call the advertising industry needs to get serious about quality and about respecting our audiences. The good news is that investing in high-quality advertising solutions won’t just make consumers happy, it will also deliver better results for advertisers and the publishers who rely on them.

In 2017, the number of Americans using ad blockers is predicted to grow to 86.6 million people, up 24 percent from the previous year, according to eMarketer. It’s publishers who suffer the most, because without advertising, how can they sustain their editorial processes?

Publications are fighting back with a variety of strategies. Forbes, for example, won’t let people who are using ad blockers access its content, and it rewards them for turning ad blockers off by offering an “ad-light” experience. That sort of compromise acknowledges why the user turned to ad blockers in the first place, while simultaneously reminding people that if they want content, they either need to pay for it or accept that advertising does.

Parallels Between Advertising and the Music Business

The rising use of ad blockers as a consumer reaction is similar to the music piracy of 15 to 20 years ago. Frustrated with spending close to $20 on a CD, consumers began using peer-to-peer technologies to share music without paying for it. Faced with no option other than to change, the music industry transformed, and, today, with products like Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora and Google Play, consumers have flexible ways to listen to the music they love at reasonable prices. Music piracy still exists, but it is down substantially because the market is now meeting consumer needs. Who can say if those evolutions would have happened if consumers hadn’t found a way to disrupt the existing marketplace model and force the industry’s hand?

Just like the music business, the advertising industry will find a solution that suits both the market and consumers. With advancements like the new IAB standards and organizations like, the ad industry is rigorously responding to what is effectively piracy of publisher content by denial of ad revenue. Within the next few years, the combined effort of so many companies in the ad industry will give rise to new ad norms that will result in higher-quality advertising and turn the tide in the ad-blocking war.

Victor Wong is CEO of Thunder

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