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The Time For Blaming Ad Block Users Is Over

by Todd Garland, Founder & CEO at BuySellAdson July 6, 2016

It’s probably going to sound contradictory, coming from someone who founded an Ad Tech company, but the more I think about the ongoing dialog regarding ad blockers, the more I’m convinced that we’ve all missed the point. Surveys, reports, Twitter polls, and studies have all been conducted in an attempt to identify the underlying causes of ad blocking, but we can reduce the results to one all-encompassing theme: people will always opt-out of things they hate. And they hate the current edition of advertising online.

If we really want to stop the ad blocker growth from continuing its exponential climb, we need to face the cold hard truth: ad blocker applications and their users aren’t the problem; the ad tech companies, boards, and initiatives behind serving these ads are the problem. People have outgrown what we’re serving them. We need to fix that problem.

First, We Need To Actually Care About Ad Block Users’ Motives

Those people who hate advertisements the most, ironically, are also ad tech’s real customers. Contrary to a few popular opinions, neither publishers nor marketers are the ones responsible for ad tech’s actual revenue. Sure, ad tech exists to facilitate the purchasing and serving of ads online, but the party that makes the entire exchange possible sits in a chair reserved for those who consume content. Without people looking at, clicking on, or even watching ads in their videos, there is no ad tech market.

What they’re telling us, rather vocally, is that we’ve been failing them. Our primary customers are conflicted. They know they’re reading for free because marketers and advertisers are paying publishers. They know that advertising makes the world go around. But, they also know that every time they open a web page there stands a chance that their privacy will be trampled, their movements will be tracked, or someone may be looking to serve them unexpected malware. They know that every time they open a website they’re going to be hounded by pop-overs, interstitials, and ads so fat that they burn through data plans.

Given the choice, should a content consumer choose protecting a nameless and faceless group of people writing on the Internet, or should they protect themselves against a possible threat, not to mention eliminate a huge source of annoyance?

I know what I would do given the same choice.

How long can we, as an industry, actually survive without restoring the faith of our consumers? How long can we continue to ignore what our primary market keeps telling us? It’s time to wake up to that fact and stop talking about things like “compromise” or “understood contract”.

Those who drive our revenue and growth are constantly telling us that we’re failing them, and they’re telling us this by installing ad blockers. We need to care more about this and start building better solutions. A tipping-point is on the horizon, but which way we tip is still up in the air.

The Time For Standard Is Coming To A Close

As an industry, we desperately need to build an ad model that core customers don’t hate. Social platforms are already doing it (Snapchat filters, Facebook Ads) and there’s nothing stopping us from doing the same thing with the free and open web. The new ad experiences we’re tinkering with at BuySellAds (more to come soon!) have been getting tremendous traction with our early testers.

It’s time we call it like it is, and if we do that “standard” advertisements may become a thing of the past in the near future. We need to recognize that integrated and contextual ad placement can provide tremendous value to consumers.

Monetization strategies built on informative grounds are what users expect today. Snapchat has already built it for marketers. Facebook and Twitter are giving advertisers more in-experience solutions. The big players have already awoken to the idea of contextual advertising.

If they can do it, we can do it too.

As an industry, we need to work closely with media companies and help them take the next step in their ad offering evolution. Building better ads today means eliminating the need for ad blockers tomorrow.

There’s no implied contract between media and consumer. Publishers offered up advertisement-based models in lieu of having consumers pay a monthly subscription for access to fantastic content. The consumers never asked for it. Since that offering was originally launched, a lot has changed. Consumers, today more than at any time in the past, are starting to question the value of content online and whether or not it’s worth the trade offs. In their eyes, it’s increasingly difficult to justify their interaction with ads.

Consumers have voted, and they’re in the process of moving to more streamlined experiences in-app and on platforms. Ads aren’t dead, however. These next generation media companies are built on ads. Ads still drive their revenue.

Ads have a future in media. It just looks a little different today than it did a decade ago.

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