Ad Blocking & Native – No room for complacency

How should native advertising respond to ad blocking? Tim Cain, MD of The Association of Online Publishers, provides his take.
tim cain - native ad voices

Presentation: Tim Cain is the Managing Director of the UK Association of Online Publishers (AOP). Tim is responsible for strategy, direction and operational management. AOP delivers a program of events, research and targeted initiatives to the online publishing industry. Tim has been at AOP for six years and has extensive publishing experience gained over 15 years at EMAP and Bauer Consumer Media, respectively.

The number one topic on everyone’s lips in digital advertising is Ad Blocking, and the seemingly unstoppable threat to the existing model of a primarily free ad funded internet, enabling consumers to enjoy the content they set out to consume for the most part without payment. At first glance that further strengthens the case for marketers to pursue native advertising, and avoid falling foul of the ad blocking software impact on display ads, and the reduction in audience visibility.

Sophisticated ad blockers  

However, it’s not that simple. Ad blockers are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their ability to detect commercial messaging. Formatted native ads appearing in content streams are the most likely to be detectable but any content that is labelled as “sponsored”, “in association with” or other such terminology could potentially have that labelling blocked. So the content itself might appear, but any logos or references to the advertising brand could be lost.

Removing the labelling isn’t the answer. A brand needs to be seen to be associated with a piece of content or else there is no value. IAB guidelines and research by AOP shows that labelling is vital – introducing the brand early, declaring its interest and reinforcing its authority to provide that content as well as the basic requirement of not duping consumers into seeing the message as a thinly veiled attempt at delivering a commercial message.

A creative challenge 

When ad blockers are able to detect affiliate links in text it shows the problem is not linked specifically to “advertising”.

Media owners and advertising agencies need to be monitoring and aware of the scale of ad blocking and how different ad types are affected. The solution of paying an ad blocker to be whitelisted, and therefore effectively beat the block, is neither in the consumer interest or that of the media owner or ultimately the advertising brand, it’s an unpalatable extortion model to deliver a message.

There is no easy answer right now of course. It’s a creative challenge as much as anything else, around formats used, visible references and relevance. It is up to publisher, advertising and technology communities to agree guidelines, acceptable to all parties, that are, above all else, ‘consumer first’ in their application whilst, honouring the age old preserve that is the ‘value exchange’.

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