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Ad Blocking & PR: Trends & Opportunities

While ad blocking software has been around for years, concern about ad blocking has become one of the hottest topics in advertising and marketing this year, especially for mobile advertising.

In Germany, in two different lawsuits, several publishers claimed that AdBlock Plus, one of the most widely-used blockers, is anti-competitive, and both failed earlier this year, diminishing the possibility of a successful international legal challenge.

A report issued by PageFair (which produces tools to measure the impact of ad blocking and develops unobtrusive advertising) states that ad blocking use grew 41 percent in the last 12 months and that publishers lost an estimated $22 billion in 2015. While some contest PageFair’s estimated cost, nobody can question the growth in ad blocking.

Some forms of compromise are emerging. AdBlock Plus, one of the most widely used blockers, has a whitelist for advertisers that adhere to certain principles, and large advertisers like Google, Amazon or Taboola, pay a certain percent of the equivalent advertising revenue. This may mitigate the impact of ad blocking.


The implications for PR and media relations?

1. The issue is a battle of perceptions.

Some advertisers and website owners believe that ad blocking by consumers is at best freeloading and at worst, it’s theft. Some software providers and consumers declare that ad blocking is a right, or at least close enough that it shouldn’t be stopped.

Since many consumers block ads as a way of protecting their privacy, websites that readers trust and care about will have an advantage. Some websites with strong reader affiliation, such as Wired, GameBanana and the Guardian, use software that notes when an ad blocker is turned on and asks the reader to turn the blocker off or to provide support in some other way.

2. The outcome is the same for nearly everyone.

The ideal outcome is virtually the same for nearly all stakeholders: relevant, visible and unobtrusive content that doesn’t use much bandwidth.

Consumers mostly object to intrusive ads, too much tracking, or ads that take up too much bandwidth, rather than advertising in general, and most are aware that advertising supports the content that they want. But like most ideal outcomes, the stakeholders have very different approaches and some are going to be incompatible.

For example, the line between personalized content and content so focused that it’s creepy will be different for many individuals.

3. Alternatives to advertising.

Content marketing (when the context makes it relevant and unobtrusive), native advertising, social media, sponsorships, white papers, product placement, email lists and, of course, earned media are all alternatives to advertising.

Depending on the longer-term growth and impact of ad blocking, these approaches are very likely to become more common and have bigger budgets.


Images: Uwe HermannSteve Johnson (Creative Commons)

About Ann Feeney

Ann Feeney is the Information Science Specialist at Cision. When she's not information scienceing, she's planning travel, practicing photography, or inventing titles for her unauthorized autobiography.

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