Why ad-blocking doesn't matter
A view from Mark Cooper

Why ad-blocking doesn't matter

The online industry is in a right tizzy about ad-blocking. Amid this blind panic, it's worth considering why ad-blocking doesn't matter as much as you think, writes Mark Cooper, RadiumOne's operations director.

If you’re still reading, thanks for persevering with what many will see as a heretical point of view. Some might believe I should take a test in which I'm stripped to my undergarments, tied up and pushed into the Thames to see if I float.

Before I launch into impending doom, it’s worth pointing out that I do agree with some of the masses' views about ad-blocking. Whether you think it’s good or bad, the advent of this technology is certainly acting as a positive catalyst for change.

It’s contributing to a renewed focus on making better ads, more careful targeting and showing more respect to consumers, particularly when it comes to intrusiveness (why it took this to focus on those is a truly damning indictment on our industry).

I’ll cover two areas here. Firstly, ad-blocking levels. An IAB UK study put this at 22% of UK adults online in February, up from 18% in October. A more recent study they did purely on mobile, put mobile ad-blocking at 10% (millennials accounting for 63% of this group).

The second piece of context explains my decision to write this, which is significant and happened after a well-known brand client asked about the impact of ad blocking on the UK market and our business. The results of the investigation changed my position, from siding with the vocal majority to my current spot in metaphorical Coventry.

What we found

In short, not that much. We didn’t see any impact and the one we did was positive – a slightly more responsive audience universe for our advertisers. Why? Probably because people who block ads would never actively engage with an online ad anyway, so in a way we became more efficient and performance improved (ie our pool was smaller but more relevant).

Of course, over time this might mean a rise in CPM but for now, given such a large reach in the first place, we’re not seeing that yet.

Ad-blocking also has less significance because inventory is growing at a greater rate. There’s been limited impact on our business, as I’m sure is the case with most of our competitors, because the market availability of inventory is increasing across platforms. In other words, the opportunity to deliver ads is getting larger as online time and the online population increases across devices.

However, this trend of inventory growth outpacing ad-blocking may not continue but I don’t see that happening in the short-medium term.

Another reason not to torment yourself about ad-blocking is that unlike ad verification issues such as viewability, fraud and brand safety, you’re not wasting money.

In those scenarios you waste money on ads that weren’t seen, were seen by a robot or were placed in a damaging environment.

In ad-blocking, it simply means an ad was never served. That’s less opportunity but no cost.

The keeping my job bit

What’s beyond doubt is that the whole ad-blocking issue is forcing all members of the online ad delivery supply chain to develop better advertising experiences.

Certainly, we are no different to that and our approach mirrors the industry’s in terms of looking to deliver quality and relevant advertising while keeping intrusion to a minimum.

However, there’ll always be a chunk of the population who’ll block ads regardless of (a) how good they are and (b) even if they knew it meant they’d end up having to pay to use websites that can no longer rely on ad revenue to exist.

However, these people will unlikely be of relevance to advertisers so good riddance I say and let’s stop worrying about those that were never in the game to begin with.