It seems like the last few weeks everywhere I turn online I’m reading a thinkpiece about the rise of ad blockers and the imminent demise of online advertising.
I’m a little late to this particular party I have to admit. Up until around a fortnight ago I didn’t even realize ad blockers existed and I certainly wouldn’t have seen the need for them prior to reading any of the recent pieces.
Prompted by the subject’s popularity in the news though, I finally got around to installing one, more out of curiosity than anything else.
The difference it made was astonishing. Suddenly I was watching pages load miraculously quickly, irritating video ads became a thing of the past and I was no longer plagued by popups. It felt like getting a brand new machine.
My experience was just on the desktop but with ad blockers now very much a part of the mobile landscape, many think something of a reckoning is coming for the online advertising industry.
I’ve never had any particular fondness for advertisers I must confess. I’ve always seen them as something of a necessary evil and long quoted John Wanamaker’s famous line: Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half!
The promise of digital advertising of course was to solve that particular conundrum and remove a whole lot of the guesswork which had traditionally gone into campaigns. Recent revelations about the extent of fraudulent clicks suggest we are being sold an increasingly shoddy bill of goods in that department however.
Publishers have to share a portion of the blame here as well. If you’re running a site, you’re ultimately responsible for what appears on it and ads are content just like anything else. You wouldn’t see Vogue running scammy classified ads for example.
Many publishers seem to have been overcome by the dangling dollar signs and simply decided to sell their audiences down the river for some short-term loot.
I’m not sure which direction the publishing and advertising industries will move on this matter but one thing’s for certain – they’re going to have to do something. Once you’ve experienced the web with ad blocking enabled, it’s very hard to go back!