This is final part of a 3-part blog series regarding the ad tech industry and the fight that has ensued between two sides: consumer, and publisher/advertiser. If you haven’t already, you should read part 1 and part 2 first. We are all affected by the amount of ads we see on the web, so whether you are a consumer, publisher, or advertiser, please feel free to join the discussion, share your online ad experiences, and offer insight as to how you think the ad blocking war can end with a win for both sides.
The first part of this blog series set the scene of the digital ad war, looked at the rise of online ad blocking, and the financial implications for publishers. The second installment focused solely on the arguments of online content consumers. This third and final installment will explore how the digital ad industry has gotten to this point and steps that need to be taken to fix it.
How did we get here?
How have we gotten to a point so far in this advertising black hole that suggesting bare minimums, like asking ad networks to implement encryption standards is too much? Well Julie Brill, departing FTC commissioner of 6 years, who spoke harshly against the ad tech industry in an article with Ad Age, might have the answer.
Do Not Track
Not only does she think that the ad tech industry could do better, she believes that the breakdown of the 2013 Do-Not-Track Standards is partly to blame for this rise of ad blocking. The Do Not Track (DNT) system was meant to allow consumers to opt out of invasive tracking and flag their browsers.
The ad industry fought this hard and eventually eliminated the DNT system by just ignoring the browser flags completely. With the unrestricted use of third party trackers, which collect information about web visitors for large data brokers like Experian, the ad industry saw unprecedented levels of growth with their new ability to monetize advertising profiles for web users.
This has left consumers upset with the amount of annoying, intrusive, and dangerous ads that make their web experience horrible. Brill stated, “We’ve seen an incredible rise in consumers taking matters into their own hands, which is precisely what I said would happen back then.”
What is the solution to ad blockers?
Ad blockers may be the cause of publisher headaches lately, but there is hope for the future of advertising. According to an ad blocking report released by Teads.tv in January of this year, 84 percent of people would reconsider installing ad blockers if they were given a choice during the ad experience. And there’s the fact that ad blockers actually consume more page views than average internet users according to the comScore and Sourcepoint report. This surely exhibits that users want to read the content provided; they just want a positive, non-intrusive experience while doing so.
In the very near future, there might not be an easy solution, or “quick fix”. But the first steps consist of advertisers producing better, relevant, and helpful ads that are not annoying to consumers. If you don’t love auto play or video ads that block your screen that you can’t skip, you can be almost certain that your consumer doesn’t want them either. No one, advertiser or consumer, wants to spend time on a website where they are fighting advertisements for their entire site visit.
Publishers need to be willing to dedicate resources to deliver their ads using encrypted HTTPS connections and fully vet their third-party ad providers. Consumers will be more apt to stop using ad blockers if they know that publishers can be trusted to deliver safe, quality ads.
Ending the digital ad war
The ad tech industry can continue to fervently remind consumers that their advertisements, good or bad, fund this ‘free’ content, but until we see publishers and advertisers exercise more control over the quantity of ads, increase the quality of the ads, and demonstrate that they prioritize the consumer web experience over ad impressions, it is extremely unlikely that we will see consumers change the way they feel about ads.
The internet has long been a place where consumers go to find more choice and decreased costs. If the ad tech industry collapses, not only will we lose free content from news publishers, we will see a price rise of products and services across the internet. If sites can no longer subsidize the price of their products with advertising, the consumer will end up paying the difference.
If both sides don’t find a way for everyone to win this digital war, it may not only be the end of the ad tech industry—it could be the decline of the internet as we know it.