It’s difficult to work out when exactly adblocking started being described as a full blown conflict, but it was probably before the MWC. By the time the event started in Barcelona, The Telegraph were eager to open with the provocative title ‘The War over Mobile Ad Blocking Has Only Just Begun’ - a description that certainly has a militaristic feel (and seems to mimic Gandalf’s closing lines from The Two Towers). So too does AdWeek’s soundbite about adblocking ‘destroying the ecosystem’ - like a type of weapon normally banned by the Geneva Convention.
This rhetoric is getting even more extravagant – Roi McCarthy, CMO of Shine Technology, said that their adblocker is ‘the single biggest threat in the history of advertising…it’s a stellar opportunity to reset the relationship with consumers’. These are big proclamations - Shine, it seems, is some apocalyptic event for advertisers, ready to bring about an advertising Second Coming.
While the adblockers are keen to paint the picture of crisis, Three are significantly milder on their calls for improvement. They are looking to stop users having to pay for advertising using their own data and encouraging better targeted ads. Though Three may decide to implement a network-wide ban on ads, this does not affect ad presence over WiFi. Given that network-based data only makes up about 16% of a users’ monthly consumption rate (the average iOS user consumes around 1.8Gb of cellular data compared to 8.9Gb over wireless), Three’s move will have a relatively minimal impact on the number of users blocking ads.
The problem with such antagonistic language is that it doesn’t help find a solution to the adblocking issue. Both advertisers, publishers and blockers need to have a discussion about why exactly consumers are turning towards adblocking in the first place. Solutions to this problem can come in a number of different forms - higher quality creatives, more relevant ads, or ad formats that feel less intrusive and more engaging. Certainly, the IAB’s recent decision to un-invite Ad Blocker Plus from their annual conference is not a way to form a proper dialogue.
Three’s move has provided an exciting and bold opportunity for the advertising industry to address the question of adblocking on mobile. In a constantly evolving industry, organisations have to be ready to react to new trends and issues with satisfying solutions in transparent ways that put the consumer first. The same will invariably be true of adblocking, and, given the response of those at MWC, there are those ready to tackle the problems with vigour. But it might be easier without all the apocalyptic terminology.