In a feat of circular logic that would make Abbott & Costello proud, AdBlock Plus has now decided that digital ads can be a good thing… as long as they are the ones who make money off of it.
Yes, the company that has continually drawn ire for tanking many sites’ revenue models and many advertisers’ exposure levels has now elected to sell back the milk it stole from the cow in the first place. No, this is not a satirical post from The Onion.
To wit: AdBlock Plus has launched their own ad marketplace that allows website owners to nominate “acceptable” ads for their site that lack obtrusive qualities like autoplay videos. AdBlock Plus users will then be subjected to these hand-picked ads — despite their express efforts to avoid ads outright.
In essence, AdBlock Plus has discovered a rare digital marketing tactic that will have everyone clamoring to put them in the stockade. Before you fetch your least-fresh batch of tomatoes and cabbage, though, consider what this move may mean for digital marketing.
So Now It’s Come to This?
Like many of us, AdBlock Plus creator Michael McDonald grew up in an era of the most obnoxious banner ads imaginable. Seeking to get rid of ads that hurt his online browsing experience, he created an extension for the Firefox browser in 2004. It was essentially an improved clone of an earlier program, aptly named just “AdBlock.”
At first, few people noticed the tool, but eventually an undercurrent of users began to (allegedly) erode many sites’ advertising base. Without being served ads, visitors could not generate revenue for the sites, putting pressure on media companies for advertising revenue.
The issue began to hit critical mass around 2011, when publishers began to realize that millions of people internationally were now using the tool. Something had to give. Surprisingly, it was AdBlock, just not in the way that many expected.
That year, AdBlock Plus introduced their faux-benevolent “whitelisting” program. Certain sites would be whitelisted by the feature, rewarding them for their tasteful placement of non-intrusive ads. Many of the more cynical-minded were quick to point out that the scenario reeked of an extortion scheme, where the theft of advertising dollars was followed by a humble request for bribes to return the site back to normal.
Of course, the whitelisting measure could be defeated by AdBlock users, and not every browser uses AdBlock Plus as a rule, so the results of cooperating seemed to be far from worth it. Unfortunately, it appears that some companies did buy in, evidenced by AdBlock’s ambitious move to now sell its own hand-curated ads it likely procured from a artisanal farmer’s market stall in Portland or some junk.
The writing on the wall to advertisers is therefore clear: AdBlock Plus will stop at nothing to preserve its perceived dominance.
Facing Home Truths About Ads
The unfortunate reality of the entire situation is that AdBlock Plus can only supply the convenient villain role so long. Users embraced adblocking for a reason, and sites that try to ban them for their sentiment seem to be receiving no benefit on the back end. As one commenter astutely put it: “Ultimatums, roadblocks, hurdles, and pop up messages are visitor unfriendly and are very stupid things to do.”
So what’s the solution? Don’t be a part of the problem as an advertiser. Ensure that your branded ads are not causing visitors strife and encouraging them to download an adblocker post-haste. You should also seek to increase the relevance of your current ads through a strategy of segmentation and optimization.