October 15, 2015

“We messed up” is how the IAB recently acknowledged the industry’s involvement in the rise of ad blocking, which threatens billions in revenue for publishers.

This mea culpa was accompanied by the announcement of the IAB’s L.E.A.N. Ads program, which was intended to set expectations among consumers, publishers and advertisers regarding a higher quality user experience.

While there has been a crescendo of press recently, the issue isn’t new. Ad blocking in the US and Europe grew 48% and 35% respectively this year, with a total of 122 million consumers using blockers in these regions alone. With the recent release of Apple’s IOS 9, which has in-browser ad block, the problem is rapidly escalating in mobile as well. Mezzobit internal data shows that among major publishers, ad blocking varies in the 5-14% range, with the higher end typically seen by sites with larger international audiences (which use blocking more frequently).

Publishers have an array of choices on how to response to blocking, and we at Mezzobit feel that development of a strategy shouldn’t be a knee-jerk reaction. Rather, it should take into account both the root causes of why ad blocking occurred in the first place — which the IAB’s program is focusing on — as well as how to differentially respond to consumer behavior.

In the coming weeks, Mezzobit will publish a series of articles highlighting the best practices used by leading publishers, as well as some emerging trends on dealing with blocking. Among the response strategies that will be highlighted are:

  • Do nothing.
  • Engage in a conversation with the visitor about blocking using intercepts and messages.
  • Change the user experience, such as presentation of different editorial content, based on blocking behavior.
  • Implement paywall and content monetization strategies for visitors who block.
  • Serve alternate ad content that is acceptable to blockers and permit visitors some choice in which ads are presented.
  • Use more branded content and native advertising to create a more seamless experience.
  • Improve site performance to offset UX degradation caused by ads, with better policing of ad performance.
  • Subvert ad blockers through technology.
  • Pay whitelisting fees to ad blockers to enable certain ads to be shown.
  • Tailor different strategies to different audience segments with a healthy dose of experimentation.
  • Invert the difficulty of reaching blocking consumers into higher CPMs when they can be addressed by marketing messages.
  • Differentiate how blocking for display ads is treated differently from video.