Court the consumer, not the competition
Editorial

Court the consumer, not the competition

Eyeo’s recent legal victories in Germany show that the courts can’t save marketers from adblocking software: consumers have to be catered to, not cajoled.

People love adblocking software because it keeps the web clear of intrusive ads and irrelevant content that slows down their browsing experience.

According to the Pagefair and Adobe 2015 Ad Blocking Report, such software blocked US$21.8bn in ad revenue in the past year – representing 14 per cent of global ad spend – and this is expected to reach US$41.4bn by 2016. The number of adblock users grew 41 per cent in the same period, to 181 million worldwide.

But let’s be honest, Eyeo – maker of AdBlock Plus, the world’s most popular adblocking software – is not run by anti-capitalists out to destroy the online advertising economy.

The company allows site owners to pay hard cash to get onto a ‘whitelist’ so that ads are displayed to the public as normal. They claim this is to encourage the advertisers to produce non-intrusive ads, but some digital publishers see it as an attempt to grab a share of their revenues. As a result, a number of them have attempted to use the legal system to shut down such operations.

In April, however, Eyeo won in court against German newpaper websites Zeit Online and Handelsblatt, which had attacked the company as anti-competitive. Eyeo went on to defeat German broadcasters RTL and ProSiebenSat1 at a regional court in Munich a month later. A final court case is ongoing between Eyeo and the publisher of Bild.

Eyeo’s victories suggest that marketers and content providers won’t be able to defeat adblockers using the law.

It’s similar to the global music industry’s failure to crack the piracy nut with a legal sledgehammer. In the end, the industry had to change its approach, appealing to consumers rather than attacking the competition. By offering people the music they want, at a time, place and cost that is convenient to them, the music industry is finally winning the fight. It shows that the way to undermine a competing system is to win the love of consumers.

Fortunately, many marketers have already recognised this. The explosion in content marketing and programmatic is the proof. But too many advertisers are still irritating consumers with intrusive content, driving them into the arms of adblock. Surely they will recognise the mistake they are making soon enough, so that the trend towards adblocking can eventually be reversed?

Steve Woolley Head of External Affairs CIM
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