BlockIQ Escalates War on Ad Blockers

As consumers turn to ad blockers to avoid advertising on their mobile and computer screens, marketers and content providers who depend on pitches to pay the bills are searching frantically for ways to counter the pesky programs. BlockIQ offers them one.

BlockIQ, owned by AdSupply, which recently merged with Adaptive Medias, has launched BlockBypass. The software can detect users of the popular ad blocker AdBlock and perform a number of countermeasures, including circumventing the ad blocker.

Websites can configure BlockBypass as aggressively as they wish. They can just educate a visitor about the harm of ad blockers to websites that depend on advertising to stay alive. They can refuse to serve content to a visitor until an ad blocker is disabled for the website. They also can choose a nuclear option and bypass the ad blocker altogether.

“The incredible growth of ad blocking has reached the tipping point where sites will no longer be able to operate,” BlockIQ CEO Justin Bunnell said.

In the last 12 months alone, use of ad blockers has risen 41 percent globally, bringing the number of worldwide users to 198 million and costing publishers US$22 billion, according to PageFair’s 2015 global ad-blocking report.

“If ad blocking continues unchecked, it will eliminate the advertising revenue websites need to survive,” Bunnell noted. “It is like expecting a movie theater to stay in business when 30 percent of their audience does not pay for a ticket.”

Online Extortion

Marketers have criticized ad blockers not only for costing publishers revenue, but for squeezing money from advertisers, too.

“Ad blockers are extortion,” said John B. Strong, CEO of Adaptive Medias.

“The big ad-blocking companies will whitelist an advertiser’s ads if they pay a fee. If you don’t pay them, they’ll block your ads,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“We don’t think that’s a fair situation at all, and our technology defeats it,” Strong added.

Asked if it was ethical to bypass an ad blocker without notifying users, he answered: “The ethical question is, why should anyone assume they should be notified before they steal someone’s content?”

Cat-and-Mouse Game

Eyeo, maker of the most widely used ad blocker, Adblock Plus, has been taking payments for years from companies, including Google and Microsoft, to allow some of their ads through its filters, according to the Financial Times.

Since 2011, Adblock Plus has something it calls the “Acceptable Ads” initiative. Advertisers and publishers who participate in the program can get their advertising whitelisted in the ad blocker if they agree to create ads that meet certain user-generated criteria. However, users have the option to block those ads, too, if they so desire.

Ben Williams, operations and communications manager for Eyeo, has never encountered an ad blocker that accepts payments for whitelisting ads regardless of their properties, he said.

“That’s obviously unacceptable,” he told TechNewsWorld. “Our Acceptable Ads initiative clearly states the opposite: upholding our criteria is absolutely mandatory and users can always opt out.”

BlockIQ is joining a list of companies that have chosen to fight against users in a cat-and-mouse game, Williams added.

“It’s an old game, and we’re quite happy that we have always been on the side of users,” he said. “Some of the options they offer publishers are tame — the welcome message, for instance — but others are blatant antiuser tech, like attempting to reinsert ads where users have chosen to block them.”

Better Ads Needed

Products like BlockIQ have their place in a marketer’s toolkit, but they shouldn’t be the focus of a marketer’s anti-ad-blocker efforts, maintained Gavin Mann, global broadcast industry lead for Accenture.

“Trying to slow them down and frustrate them is a good thing to do but shouldn’t be the top focus,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“That’s what the music industry tried to do when it tried to block piracy. In the meantime, it missed the opportunity to more rapidly create its own services that were more appealing to the consumer,” Mann said.

“You’re never going to outcompete with this technology,” he added. “There will always be a next wave of ad blockers. If you put one company out of business, there will be another to take its place.”

Ad blocking could continue to rise because consumers are becoming more and more annoyed with ads, according to a global survey of 28,000 consumers performed by Harris Interactive for Accenture and released last week.

More than eight out of 10 consumers (84 percent) complained to surveyors that ad interruptions were too frequent, and 73 percent groused about ads not meeting their personal interests.

“Audiences are accustomed to a personalized experience in the content they’re watching,” Mann noted. “If the ads aren’t relevant or delivered in a style that doesn’t feel unique, then they become invasive to that personalized experience.”

The long-term counter to ad blockers is not finding ways to circumvent them, but to produce better ads, he continued.

“There’s an opportunity for marketers to provide a more personalized advertising experience that’s less intrusive,” Mann said. “If the intrusion is about a product I care about, then I’m more likely to accept the intrusion as appropriate.”

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SOURCE: Tech News World