Q&A: Tech Exec Says Publishers Need to Address Ad Blocking ‘Holistically’

But CES isn't exactly abuzz with the subject

While attending CES this week, Antti Pasila, founder and COO of Kiosked, which helps publishers deliver more relevant ads, was glad to take a little time away from the hectic conference to read the news that Forbes (not one of his company's clients) had found a simple but effective solution to ad blocking. Forbes offered readers an "ad-light experience" and reported that from Dec. 17 to Jan. 3, 42.4 percent of its visitors (903,000 of 2.1 million) who were asked to turn their ad blockers off did so.

"That just shows that consumers understand," Pasila said. "It shows that not everyone is doing it the wrong way."

It also showed that the ad-blocking riddle can be solved for publishers, including Kiosked's clients like I​DG, The Daily Mail, PC Advisor, Answers.com and Perez Hilton. Pasila's Finland-based company, which he says aims to let publishers "make more money with less ads," announced $30 million in Series B funding last month. 

We caught up with Pasila by phone to get his insights into CES, ad blocking and fraud going into 2016. Among other things, he predicts that ad blocking will continue to be a huge subject for the industry. 

Adweek: Is digital advertising bigger at CES compared to past years?

Antti Pasila: Yes, definitely. This year, I can see all of the big ad-tech players here having events. And a lot of media companies are here, which have not been [here in this number] before. 

Are people talking about ad blocking a lot?

It hasn't been brought up that much [as of yet]. This show is about more of the new tech stuff in terms of discussion points. But we've had some one-to-one [meetings] with current clients and prospects, and you can tell this is going to be the year they are looking to manage it. 

What was the most important thing the industry learned about ad blocking in 2015?

One of the biggest changes we saw in 2015 is that ad blocking is now mainstream news, as publishers are addressing it as a legitimate problem. Publishers and brands alike have realized that aligning their growing business with ads proves to be a problem with ad blocking in place. 

What does the industry need to do about ad blocking this year?

One of the most important things that the industry needs to realize moving forward is treating the core cause of the issue. Publishers need to holistically address putting user experience at the expense of monetization. 

What do you mean by "need to holistically address putting user experience at the expense of monetization?"

The main point there is that a lot of publishers have been fighting the dropping revenues and performance by adding more ad units to their monetization models. So the user experience has suffered to a focus on making more money, which has led to bad ad experiences and an overall bad content consumption experience. And these are the main reasons for more ad blocking.

What was the most important thing the industry learned about ad fraud in 2015?

Last year taught us that ad fraud is still prevalent. DSPs [demand-side platforms] are beginning to revamp their model, cleaning up their act and getting rid of middlemen that are many times the cause of ad fraud. As media monetizes, DSPs and SSPs [supply-side platforms] are focused entirely on making money, and best practices aren't often the key focus. With not much regulation in place, the ad industry is similar to the Wild West. 

What does the industry need to do about ad fraud this year?

Looking ahead, brands need to place higher value in transparency. That being said, the industry needs to have more regulation in place—meaning that both brands and buyers need to step up. Bringing more control directly into the market, we will begin to bridge the gap between catching fraudsters and the consequences associated with committing fraud. 

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