Digital Ad Disruption at Def Con 9

adblock-post2With an estimated one in three consumers expected to start using ad blocking software in the next three months, the problem just got massive.

“On a scale of one to ten, my concern is at a level eight or nine – our industry has ignored consumer concerns and now these same consumers are speaking up by installing ad blocking software.” 

These words come from Jason Kint, CEO of Digital Content Next, a trade organization serving digital content publishers who are facing a massive challenge with their ads right now.

Kint is talking about DCN research released last week that finds “33% of U.S. consumers are very likely or somewhat likely to try ad blocking software in the next three months,” according to a DCN press release on the growing threat of ad blocking. And those words are having a chilling effect around the industry.

Nobody can say they weren’t warned. Ever since Apple announced ad blocking compatibility in iOS 9, the industry has debated the ethics of ad blocking and what it could mean on the industry.

“Brands and publishers need to ‘be thoughtful’ with ads on the mobile web, or else face mutiny from smartphone users installing ad-blockers en masse,” Dean Murphy presciently predicted this fall. He would know; Murphy develops ad blocking technology for Safari, and blames advertisers — not ad-weary consumers – for their own mess.

That mutiny appears to be happening. Ad blocking has become so ubiquitous that it’s part of pop culture, notes Jack Marshall and Steven Perlberg in The Wall Street Journal.

The trend has been satirized by TV comedy show ‘South Park’, mentioned on Howard Stern’s popular radio program, and featured in multiple news programs and morning shows including NBC’s ‘Today’ show,” writes Marshall and Perlberg.  “Ad blocking has reached the big time.”

And the big time is getting bigger, fast. Keep in mind those 33% of consumers represent only new users, adding on to the estimated 45 million (or 16%) of U.S. users who were already blocking ads this year, according to Joseph Lichterman in NeimanLab.

This comes at a time when ad fraud itself is a mega-billion dollar criminal proposition, further destroying consumer perception of the industry and presenting a double challenge.

“Ad blocking and ad fraud are issues that are quite joined at the hip,” writes David Kirkpatrick in Marketing Dive. “While there is little the digital advertising community can do to tackle ad blocking, aside from improving ads across the board with an eye on considering the user experience first, ad fraud is something the industry can and should be working actively to stamp out.”

And the solution begins with transparency, with a “fully transparent, traceable supply chain” for digital ads, Steve Sullivan of Index Exchange told Kirkpatrick.

“In terms of tactics on the marketing side of fighting ad fraud, advertisers should be willing to put a premium on real traffic, according to Sullivan, as well as hold the other parties accountable for paying that premium for online ads,” says Kirkpatrick.

The digital ad disruption is here, folks, and if you are putting money into digital advertising you need to understand the implications to your business.

The game has changed, for good.