Real impact of adblocking in Australia is being overstated warn media agency execs

Ad blocking is a 'Chicken Little'

Whitfield: ‘Ad blocking is a Chicken Little situation’

Senior digital executives from two of Australia’s biggest media buying agencies have warned that the impact of adblocking is being overstated in the market.

Speaking at the Programmatic Summit in Sydney, GroupM’s Timothy Whitfield took aim at reports that there were some 200m people using adblocking software around the world. 

“My personal point of view is that adblocking is a little bit of a ‘chicken little’ situation,” warned Whitfield, director of technical operations at GroupM. “Someone says a number, then someone repeats that number and it amplifies.

“When I measured it by looking at a single server, one data set over another data set, it was 7.3% in Australia. Now 10% is an agency discrepancy and we were under the discrepancy for adblocking.”

Whitfield was speaking on a panel about the opportunities of programmatic, where another panel member, Graham Christie from Big Mobile, noted: “That 200m figure is a big number but that’s (just) 3% of the people online globally.”


Robbins: ‘We don’t have the data yet’

Later in the day, Dan Robins head of interactive at OMD, took a slightly different view, telling the room:  “I don’t think we have the data yet and we see the big over-arching reports and we see certain demographics that do (adblock).

“But it is still so new that there isn’t a piece of information you could tie into an optimisation or digital campaign plan that would do that job for you,” he said, on a panel looking at viewability, ad fraud and ad blocking.

Fairfax executive Tereza Alexandratos argued it was a threat, but only one of a number facing publishers.

Alexandratos, digital ad development director at Fairfax Media, said: “I think for us adblocking is a threat but there are obviously many many other threats to traditional publishers…  I think it is widely known that paid models are not going to be enough to replace advertising revenue. It is more of a supplementary revenue stream.

Tereza Alexandratos

Tereza Alexandratos: ‘Adblocking is just another thing we need to factor in’

“If a publisher is smart they will be diversifying their revenue streams across the board. For us we have, for a long time, looked at other revenue streams outside of advertising to make up for the structural changes in the market and adblocking is just another one of those things to factor in.”

Whitfield’s argument focused on the need for the advertising industry to look at what was driving people to install adblocking software.

“It is a big number but we need to make the advertising environment welcome,” said Whitfield.

“We have taken this fantastic environment – think about when you go to the movies – you actually enjoy the advertising experience with the big screen and surround sound, and we have taken something fun and moved it into a tiny little iframe. That’s the problem we need to overcome.

“It needs the right person, the right message, the right time.”

Nic Christensen 


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