Ralphie Parker and the Reality of Native Ads, 2016 Edition

Are misguided consumers really to blame for the pain that digital advertisers are feeling these days? 

Digital advertisers are feeling a whole lot of pain, and they have misguided consumers to thank for it, according to Shailesh Shukla, writing in AdAge.

Shukla writes: “Adobe estimates the use of ad blockers grew globally by 41% over the past 12 months and cost advertisers $22 billion in revenue during 2015.”

And it’s about to get worse.

“Juniper Research estimates that publishers could lose over $27 billion by 2020 as ad blockers disrupt the fundamental value exchange among advertisers, publishers, ad exchanges and consumers,” Shukla continues.

The article starts to sound a little off when it tries to convince me that ad-blockers are a bad thing for consumers, especially mobile consumers – even though those consumers have clearly told the industry that mobile bloat is not going to be tolerated. According to these folks, ad blockers will ruin my online experience, and anyone who uses them is, well, misguided.

Fortunately, according to Shukla, technology is poised to save the day.

“Companies are now emerging that offer solutions to circumvent ad blockers and help publishers recover their ad revenue,” he writes. “The idea is to try to obscure the pattern recognition that ad blockers use to determine that something is an ad. Because there is a risk of consumer backlash if publishers ignore users’ sentiments and continue to serve annoying ads, anti-ad blocking needs to be used tactfully by allowing high-quality ads that will enhance, rather than detract from, the user experience.”


Companies like Instart Logic, no doubt. This article in Ad Age – generally a trusted source of relevant industry information – is a sponsored post, paid for by Instart Logic, a company that “goes beyond a content delivery network to provide a radically different approach to web performance.”

Yep, it’s a native ad, one of the few types of advertising that does make it past the ad blockers. And it did exactly what we warn about all the time. It hit me right in the consumer mistrust zone. It was the Ovaltine Effect all over again.

While the article did go on to make some interesting observations about how publishers might address this crisis in other ways, by that time I was too disinterested to care much at all. And I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the reaction they were hoping for.  While publishers and ad partners are buying into native ads in a big way, consumers just aren’t having it.

Publishers need to be paid for their content in one way or another; I have no quarrel with that. But publishers that give away their best content on a platform that is incompatible with lucrative advertising returns have no right to complain that the readers aren’t “getting it.” Digital, baby, you’ve still got a lot to learn.