Adblock stops native?

Adblock stops native?

Native advertising skirts around the barriers set up by adblock software – but for how long?

As if marketers didn’t have enough good reasons to invest in quality content, there’s the rise of adblock software.

Adobe and PageFair recently revealed that the number of people using adblock software had increased by 69% in 12 months. There are already more than 144 million people signed up worldwide – many of them millennials who possess digital savvy and disposable income.

The software blocked US$21.8bn in ad revenue over the past year, and this is expected to reach US$41.4bn by 2016. Uptake is also likely to increase, since Apple is to include adblock for iOS 9, its latest mobile operating system.

Emerging markets are also subject to this trend. UC Browser, popular in India and China, began incorporating an adblocker in 2014.

The use of native advertising is growing too; a study by Intelligence shows the market could be worth more than US$20 billion in the United States alone by 2018. Given the power that adblock already possesses, it will be a significant challenge to the new thinking if the developers behind the software decide to go after native advertising.

It seems a little unfair that content marketing could be blocked in the same way as a potentially irritating pop-up, as it is part of a transactional relationship. The consumer expects to get something from the company – a story, a game, a recipe – in return for their time and attention.

Adblock companies already address this with the claim that they promote ‘good’ forms of advertising that don’t slow down the browsing experience – so perhaps creating quality content that people want to see, rather than ads that they often don’t, could get sites on the ‘whitelist’ of those that aren’t blocked.

However, as our recent piece on the German adblock case shows, some adblock developers are looking to cash in – they want content providers to pay them a cut of ad revenue to get on the whitelist. As native advertising becomes a more important revenue stream, it makes sense for them to start blocking.

It’s plausible too – sponsored links from companies like Taboola, commonly seen on news websites, can already be blocked. Technology can also distinguish between the ‘real’ content and native content. Legally, sites have to identify a piece of content as being paid for, and the software could pick out the text that states this in order to block the page.

There are ways advertisers can get around adblock – for example, Google, Microsoft and Amazon have all paid Adblock Plus for the privilege of joining their whitelist, according to the Financial Times. Alternatively, native ads could be posted in the same way as standard editorials and features to fool the technology, though this could raise ethical issues for some content hosts.

But the most popular option to escape adblock may be to find better disguises for native content while staying within the law: by including the note that identifies content as native advertising as an image file, for example.

One thing is for sure – the internet is a Darwinian place, in which different groups must constantly innovate technologically in order to outcompete each other. Adblock companies are currently the predators, and in future, marketers will continuously have to find clever new ways to escape them.

Thomas Brown Former Director, Strategy and Marketing CIM
Back to all