Ad Blockers Should Punish Individual Ads Rather Than Black-Listing Publishers

Opinion: The impact of Google Chrome’s update on Facebook is a drop in the bucket

Most ad blocking is currently all or nothing anilakkus/iStock

Ad blocking is a topic that’s front-and-center for brands engaging in display advertising. While it becomes more prevalent, there are still a few challenges to resolve.

As it exists today, the ad-blocking ecosystem is not yet perfected. Currently, most ad-blocking scenarios used by frustrated consumers looking for an ad-free experience involve the “all or nothing” obstruction of sites. This approach penalizes not only the advertisers looking to reach consumers, but the publishers that accept ads to fund their operations. Essentially, a poor experience served up from one advertiser is causing the blockage of all ads, no matter their merit.

As advertisers and publishers know alike, Google’s Chrome browser’s ad-blocking mechanism will be of value to consumers being exposed to bad ads. These pop-ups are identified by Google’s Ad Experience Report, which scores publishers’ sites based on the prevalence of bothersome ads.

While this is a step in the right direction, it’s not a complete solution.

It’s no secret that the Coalition for Better Ads got information from Facebook about best performing ads. This means that Facebook was the first to recognize that if a website is in violation of the Coalition’s standards, all ads on the platform will be blocked, and not just the offending ones.

Facebook users on Chrome will also be notified of blocked ads, similar to pop-up block notifications on the desktop, which means users will be given the option to opt-in for ads if they so desire.

Let’s take a look at how things currently work and explore a different, fairer path.

When it comes to working with current ad-blocking scenarios, advertiser behavior usually involves striking deals with ad-blocking entities, such as AdBlock Plus, to be white-listed, allowing their ads to appear on all sites. Current white lists/black lists are set to be applied on a “per ad slot on every single site” level.

Current consumer behavior involves blocking or allowing individual domain names. Once consumers see an irritating pop-up on a site, they unjustly (and, in fairness, unknowingly) punish the publisher, blaming the site because an advertiser ran an ad that didn’t live up to the publisher’s ad policy, which the customer is often not aware of.

Therefore, the white lists/black lists that publishers care about are the ones that the consumers set. It takes only one annoying ad for a consumer to think of a publisher site as an ad-filled disaster zone, adding it to their black list and affecting the publisher’s revenue.

In response, publishers then “beg” consumers to add their site to an ad blocker’s exception list to allow ads through. Think about the amount of publisher websites you visit that include banners requesting you to white list them or have ad-blocker walls that ask the same thing but function like pay walls of yesteryear.

It’s a problem, and publishers have started fighting back. When publishers convince a consumer to white list, all ads are forced through—the good and the bad. What’s needed is a method to properly penalize the real problem when it comes to ads that generate poor experiences, not the publishers that rely on ad revenue to sustain their operations.

The market has been laser-focused on ensuring that advertisers’ content doesn’t show up where it should not be. In turn, it has lost sight of who it is harming along the way: the publisher.

How does a publisher escape ad-blocking detention?

In a compliance-based approach, the entire process is automated. Affiliate compliance entities receive notifications from partnered ad-blocking units and notify the network prompting publisher or merchant to correct the issue. It’s a more integrated approach to overcoming the problem.

Whether that legal approach is the path taken remains to be seen, but getting ahead of it is a smart move for both advertisers and publishers.

Greg Shepard is chief technology officer of performance marketing firm Pepperjam.