Thursday, January 21, 2016
Is 2016 the Year of the Digital Shakedown of the Ad Tech community?- The growth of ad blocking software
The growth of the adtech segment in the advertising world has gone through various lifecycle stages as seen in other industries. An adtech company is Google, Facebook, MSN, Yahoo, YouTube, Taboola, ad networks etc. The phases of any industry are early adoption, great growth, mass adoption and finally maturation where sales peak. For the ad tech industry I would guess estimate it is in early maturation phase as sales are starting to level out. The best indicator of this is the recent 28% decline in Apple stock in the past year.


As this community grew up they have learned a few lessons about what makes a good advertising media model. This learning curve includes criticisms on privacy, security, spam, malware, automated web traffic, ad fraud and now ad blocking.

There is a growing community of web users that have been irritated by all the ad tricks being used that include click bait, deceptive articles and flash ads. You can read my May 2011 blog posting on my Top 10 ways you can irritate and repel you reader, as they are still relevant today.
This band of users have established guidelines on what is acceptable advertising online and we need to listen, as they are telling us what ads works with them and would be a great creative guideline to adhere to as I agree with their concerns. Below is what they define as acceptable ads that the publishing industry should take notice of.

What is an acceptable Online Ad?
1) Acceptable Ads are not annoying:
People don't need to be tricked into clicking. Advertising can rise above the noise by being useful – and even tasteful. The blinking and jiggling just annoys the real buyers, means the people who do click did it either out of curiosity or because they are an unsupervised 6-year-old. Either way, an intrusive ad is not going to generate a sale – and it might just get you some negative press and ill will.

2) Acceptable Ads do not disrupt or distort page content:
Users can very well become interested in an ad, but advertising is not the reason one visits a website. You visit a site for its content, and therefore the page should not be sullied by ads that disrupt or obscure that content without permission – pop-ups and pop-unders, pre-roll video ads and the like. When ad placement and structure are done well, they may actually inspire you to explore more without resorting to nasty tricks.

3) Acceptable Ads are transparent with us about being an ad :
If it's an advertisement, just say so! There's a place for ads, and there's a place for editorial. And there's even a place for advertorials or native ads if they're not camouflaged as editorial content. Good stuff is always welcome, but it needs to be genuine.

4) Acceptable Ads are effective without shouting at us:
We could be in the library, or on an airplane, or in a meeting … you never know when we're going to click on an ad. So please don't embarrass us with blaring sounds by default. If we want to listen, we'll click.

5) Acceptable Ads are appropriate to the site we are on:
Website publishers need to manage the user experience with the user's benefit in mind: don't let inadvertently selected advertisers harm your brand. Accepting just any kind of ad to be shown on your website might be profitable in the short term, but allowing advertisers to compromise the user experience with obnoxious ads – or even scams – will not pay off in the long run. In short, Acceptable Ads aim to be appropriate to the audience of the site they are displayed on.

This movement is part of the growing use of ad blocking software worldwide and according to a Page Fair/Abobe 2015 Report on Ad Blocking. The report states that it has grown to 198 million users worldwide in June 2015 from 21 million in 2010, 900% growth in five years with Europe leading the way with 77 million users, followed by the USA at 45 million.

These early adopters of ad blocking software are millennials (18-34), technically savvy and male. The reasons they starting using it was because of the misuse of private data via surveillance marketing (50%) and the increase in the volume of ads (41%). It seems that Gamers (26.5%), social network (19.1%() and Tech/Internet sites (17.1%) are the hardest hit by this ad blocking movement. (Page Fair is a firm that supplies a solution for ad blocking software)

How does an ad blocker work? Well, it is simple, all you need to do you is add an extension in your settings feature in your Chrome browser and you are ready to go. AdBlock is offered by for free/honourware and is one of three apps listed in the Google Chrome Extension app store and boasts it has 40 million users.

I have tested it on my computers and it works great as it filters all ads even the pre-roll video on tv shows and sports highlights. The software, however, does not block ads that part of a digital edition as they are embedded and are not delivered by an ad server. In addition websites load faster and is a secondary protection against ad malware.

Here is a funny video ad from the company:


One of the other ad blocking app firms is AdBlockPlus and they have a whitelist approach that allows websites to have their ads bypass the ad filter if they meet the “Acceptable Ads” criteria stated above. This is a free service for websites with 10 millions impressions or less, but it has been rumoured in the Financial Times that AdBlockPlus is charging a 30% cut of ad revenue for websites over this 10 million threshold. The irony of this is that people signed up to be ad free and then they are letting firms through by paying a fee, sort of the troll over the bridge business model or what I call “Extortionware.” These tactics are just part of the dog eat dog culture of the ad tech community and growing frustration and dissatisfaction with the ad tech industry.

This market force is part of the looming digital shakedown of the adtech community that I see growing in momentum in 2016 that media publishers can capitalize on. Based on what I am seeing and experienced the digital revolution is over in publishing as we are seeing a lot of recycled ideas in the marketplace, a growing digital burn-out by consumers and a cut-the-chord trend for cable tv influencing this opinion. As publishers we will need to listen to this growing voice for decisions you make on your digital strategy on whether it will be effective.  The time for us to stand together united and say we are the best media choice is now upon us, as an industry like creating Canada’s Publishing Industry Ad  Creative Guide based on the Acceptable ads criteria.
- Martin Seto
About Me
Martin Seto

Martin Seto is the producer of the Canadian Online Publishing Awards (COPAS) with 30 years of life expereince in technology, advertising, media and creative exploration. He can be reached at marty(dot)seto(at) or 416-907-6562, and on LinkedIn.

Most Recent Blog Comment
Lorene Shyba says:
Full of terrific information, Thanks!...
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