The adblocking epidemic – 'We must take action'

Sarah Homewood
By Sarah Homewood | 2 June 2016

The World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) has responded to PageFair's last mobile adblocking report, with the industry body saying it's heard the message “loud and clear” and it's readying to tackle the problem.

This week PageFair revealed that at least 419 million people, or 22% of the world’s 1.9 billion smartphone users, are blocking ads on the mobile web, with there now being twice as many adblockers being used on mobile as opposed to desktop.

CEO of the WFA Stephan Loerke explained that brands have to take responsibility for this upswing in adblocking, adding: “We get the message loud and clear; we must listen to what people are saying and take action.”

To combat the rise of adblocking the WFA plans to bring together a broader coalition, particularly with leading publishers, to work together in order to take coordinated action at a global level.

This coalition will be designed to support and enhance local initiatives which are already under way.

CMO at Royal Bank of Scotland and WFA president David Wheldon echoed Loerke's sentiment, saying: “The industry needs to reflect on the rise of adblocking. Advertising has always been cultural wallpaper and we have a duty of care to make it as attractive and engaging as possible so that people enjoy it, not want to shut it out.”

In its report, PageFair highlighted that mobile adblocking is a serious threat to the future of media and journalism, especially in emerging markets where people are coming online for the first time via relativity expensive or slow mobile internet connections.

In hard numbers, as of March 2016, there are 159 million users of mobile adblocking browsers in China, 122 million in India, and 38 million in Indonesia. In comparison, over the same period in more developed markets such as North America, there were roughly 14 million monthly active users of mobile adblocking browsers.

This increase can be in part tracked back to both Apple and Samsung announcing that their mobile browsers will allow adblocking. However PageFair also outlines that mobile browsers aren’t the only problem, noting that in-app ads can now be blocked.

Locally the IAB indicated last year that it was set to roll its L.E.A.N. Ads Program, to help publishers improve the ad-viewing experience for consumers as a way to tackle adblocking.

Former CEO Alice Manners told AdNews at the time: “If the consumer is installing ad blocker technology they must be annoyed by some sort of an ad unit, so let’s focus on an optimal user experience.

Senior vice-president of global media at Unilever and member of the WFA executive committee, Luis Di Como, agrees with focusing on the user experience noting that: “As an industry we need to focus on creating content that is authentic, relevant for consumers and drives talkability - creative that enhances rather than detracts from users’ online experiences.

"We have an ambition to create a billion one-to-one relationships with our consumers through providing positive brand experiences.”

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