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Advertising, Marketing & Promotions:
2015 Lessons Learned, 2016 Practical Tips

Programmatic and Ad Blocking >> The Rise of Ad Blocking

April 19, 2016

2015 saw the continued rise of programmatic buying and cross-device tracking, as well as the continued focus on related concerns such as ad fraud and privacy compliance. These trends will remain pertinent in the coming year, and marketers and their agencies should continue to be mindful of transparency and privacy issues when conducting media buys.

The big issue to grab the spotlight in 2015 was ad blocking. Ad blocking is not a new phenomenon; it has long been a concern of agencies, marketers, and publishers. Recent developments, however, significantly broadened the potential for the use of ad blocking technology.

For one, use of ad blockers is on the rise, especially among millennials. What is more critical, however, is that the fight has moved to mobile. Apple’s most recent release of its iOS allows content blocking extensions to be added to Safari for the first time.

Publishers are beginning to get aggressive in response, and are actively considering litigation as an option. Copyright litigation has been the most common legal means used to fight ad blockers so far, but some previous attempts to leverage this legal theory yielded little success in similar matters.

Litigation is more likely to emerge around publishers’ terms of use. Prominent publishers already have begun to add language to their terms of use prohibiting users from masking or obscuring the ads appearing on their sites.

It will take some time for this legal landscape to further develop. In the meantime, marketers and their agencies also have begun to focus more on content and environments less likely to be blocked. This has contributed to the prevalence of native advertising, branded, and user-generated content.

Further movement in this direction can be expected in 2016 while marketers and their agencies wait to see the initial results of any litigation. It is also possible that the relevant players will choose a more conciliatory route, leading to certain industry standards and understandings to ease the concerns raised by the trend toward ad blocking, including an understanding that certain types of content should not be blocked.

Looking Ahead

  • Programmatic buying and cross device tracking will remain hot issues in 2016, and marketers and their agencies should continue to be mindful of transparency and privacy when conducting media buys.
  • Marketers and agencies should expect to see the issue of ad blocking come to the fore.
  • Litigation may result, but it remains unclear what the arguments will be and whether they will hold water.
  • In the meantime, there will be further movement into native advertising, branded content, and user-generated content as marketers and agencies maneuver around the increasing prevalence of ad blocking.
  • Expect to see publishers experimenting with ways to get around ad blockers, for example by detecting users who use ad blockers and/or by erecting more pay walls.