Apple’s decision to allow ad blocking on Safari on iOS 9 sent the online advertising industry and its affected suppliers and affiliates into a frenzy. When Pagefair and Adobe released their estimates on the impact of ad blocking on growth, industry anxiety levels shot up! When iOS 9 was released an ad blocking app shot to the top of the App Store. The message was clear. Ads were making browsing slow and annoying for consumers (and they were ready to do something about it). As evidence started to mount around just how user unfriendly popular publishing sites had become, even the New York Times conceded ad blocking made for a smoother faster and altogether more pleasant reading experiences.
Publishers have continued to argue that reading content puts consumers under an obligation to support advertising. However the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) has admitted its role in creating the quagmire. “We messed up,” wrote Scott Cunningham Senior Vice President of Technology and Ad Operations at IAB.
Cunningham cited greed for profit margins and automation as the main reasons why content sites have become increasingly inflated with intrusive and battery draining advertising. He also acknowledged that this “scraping for dimes” may have cost them in the end with consumers increasingly turning to ad blocking for respite.
In the same piece, the IAB promised consumers a change for the better, promoting a new set of industry guidelines (called LEAN) to ensure advertising supported content continues to have its place on the web. LEAN, short for Light, Encrypted, Ad choice supported and Non-invasive, certainly sounds like it would be a winning compromise.
Whether it will be adopted is still to be seen but the IAB is not alone in advocating a slimmer, faster version of the Internet. Google recently released the AMP Project with similar aims. Facebook is also promising a faster user experience with Instant Articles when accessing publisher content.
Ironically, even as we speculate on the death of online advertising, new avenues for digital marketing are already emerging. Advertising on social media, for example, is growing in popularity as better targeting allows for a more native experience for users with higher engagement rates for advertisers.
Consumers have long tolerated and even appreciated good and timely advertising. Whether it’s sharing an Old Spice TV commercial, waiting in line for a Coke with their name on it or tweeting support for Uber, consumers are drawn to brands relevant to their interests.