A senior executive at a major adblocking company has said the technology has developed as a ‘blunt instrument’ and said he does not expect the saturation levels of the technology to go much past 28% of people globally.
The panel (l-r) Lewis Dvorkin (Forbes), Marjorie Gray (Dish) and Ben Williams (Adblock Plus)
Speaking on a panel on the rise of adblockers and the issues presented to publishers Ben Williams, head of operations for Adblock Plus said they wanted to make the tech “less like a baseball bat and more like a scalpel”.
He was speaking alongside chief product officer for publisher Forbes, Lewis Dvorkin, who insisted the company was not “going to war” with people using adblockers, despite moving to block people who have installed them from using its site in December.
Forbes is among several publishers to have taken steps to battle adblocking software, used by people to get rid of display ads from websites to speed save visual clutter, save data on mobile devices and speed up their browsing.
Dvorkin said the move to block people had been “challenging” adding the company was doing user surveys to work out what kind of ads people using adblockers would accept, and said the company had imposed new rules on itself about size and style.
“There was a great fear in our company no-one would ever engage with our technology content again, that didn’t happen,” he added.
Adblock Plus’ Williams applauded the move by Forbes, saying other publishers who had taken measures to ban adblockers had not done similar tests with its audience to uncover what the problem was, which he described as “dumb”.
“Adblocking is probably never going to reach saturation point – it’s probably not going to get above 26-28%,” he added. “With the rest of them ave as much fun as you want.”
He said the platform is working with its users to form strict criteria ads must adhere to to make it onto its whitelist and be shown to users of the service.
He was challenged on that by fellow panelist Marjorie Gray, digital brand manager for satellite TV provider Dish, who said: “As a brand I’m paying an agency to advertise on my behalf, and now I’m going to have to pay another fee to be white listed. Who gave you guys the power to decide?”
Williams shot back: “I would turn the question again on you, who gave you the internet?”
Forbes’ Dvorkin pointed to the fact that many marketers spent a large amount of money to get their ads to appear a certain way.
“To meet the requirements and what marketers want to do with certain ads it’s very, very hard to meet them,” he said.
“They’re legitimate requirements, but marketer wants whizzbang, and they pay a lot of money for that. Trying to connect those two is difficult.
“Some advertisers whose ads are 4GB, they pay for that. One of the things is we’re never going to serve that ad on the mobile, but direct marketer’s requirements are there.”
Williams added: “It’s probably not going to reach a saturation level, so it’s probably not all ads which need to reach this criteria, but if you want to reach people who have opted out of traditional advertising you have to do it on their terms.”
Gray admitted marketers were at least partly to blame for the phenomenon, adding: “Now we’re having to step back and understand the target market and who we want to target.
She added: “It’s working with someone like Forbes and paying a premium because I know I want that audience, and then working with someone like AdBlocker Plus and asking how we can make our creative better and more relevant.”
Williams questioned whether the rise of adblockers might be the catalyst for publishers to address flaws in the online business model.
“Take a group of solutions like we’ve seen with other industries that have evolved online,” he said. “For example music you can pay for in a number of ways for that now. Are we going to wake up in five years and think ‘holy shit why didn’t we think of iTunes or Spotify?’.”
Alex Hayes in Austin
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