Why ad-blocking could save the advertising industry

They might be bad news for media agencies (not to mention us...) but ad-blockers will force creatives to up their game.

by Jack Torrance
Last Updated: 02 Jun 2016

Ad-blocking is on the rise. Almost half of adults say they plan to use a blocker in the next six months, according to a study by KPMG, and today the mobile network Three said it plans to trial such software on a network-wide level, blocking all the ads on the phones of customers who opt-in to its scheme.

That poses a big problem for the advertising industry, which will struggle to get its messages in front of the eyes of consumers as a result. But far from being apocalyptic, the rise of ad-blocking could be just the kick up the jacksie that brands and ad agencies need.

One of the reasons antipathy towards ads has surged is because there are just so many of them. The internet, with its virtually unlimited space and low costs, has led to massive deflation in the value of any single ad. As a result brands keep spending more money on increasingly intrusive promotions. No wonder people are fed up. 

The likes of Three, and also most of those who make ad-blocking apps, don’t want to see advertising wiped out. They just want a piece of the action. Adblock Plus charges 'large entitites' with ads it deems to be acceptable in return for being ‘whitelisted’. Three says is wants ‘to create a new form of advertising that is better for all parties.’

Read more: Rise and fall of the ad man - How digital media has changed avertising

It’s easy to rail against those who seek to dictate what advertising should look like. It’s not unreasonable for publishers like Forbes and City AM to aggressively protect one of their precious income streams. Look at that gorgeous BT ad to the right of this text. Fewer, more relevant ads like that are just what the doctor ordered.

Turning ad slots into a more premium product and less of a commodity will force brands to make the most of them. That should be good news for good ad agencies with talented creative teams, whose skills will be more important than ever (It will also force brands to seek out new ways of reaching their customers - something agencies will be more than happy to help with).

But it’s not enough to just make ads ‘better’ – more interesting, more inspiring, more visually impressive. Those agencies who buy and ‘serve’ online ads need a rethink too. As well as finding a lot of ads annoying, many consumers don’t like their privacy being encroached upon, and they don’t like using vast amounts of their mobile data allowance to fund the delivery of ads. Three is reasonable in suggesting this cost should be borne by the advertiser.

Ad-blocking will be a painful challenge for the industry to overcome but it does not mark the beginning of an adpocalypse.

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