Like, Forbes starts blocking ad-block users (bit.ly/1TdqKqX). And some visitors with ad blockers are asked to either whitelist the New York Times or subscribe (bit.ly/1U0rmn3) Oh, and my favorite: the Swedish “block” party (bit.ly/21WSF1s).
I, however, am actively embracing the ad blocking revolution. It’s a good thing. It’s about time the advertising industry is called out for its complacency in building an experience that’s just “okay” for users, agencies and clients. Of course, publishers need to make money. And of course advertising and subscription models are the way to do that. But that doesn’t mean it has to be like this, the way it’s always been and the way it continues to be, to the point of consumer rebellion.
Jeff Bezos has a quote: “I frequently get the question: ‘What’s going to change in the next 10 years?’ And that is a very interesting question; it’s a very common one. I almost never get the question: ‘What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?’ And I submit to you that that second question is actually the more important of the two.”
The advertising industry has not changed significantly in the past 10 years. That’s the honest truth. We’ve made decent strides, and have evolved from television and print to OTT, digital and mobile platforms. But we haven’t really honed in on this change, and how to make a greater experience for users and brands across current and evolving mediums. We’ve ignored it to the point that it’s being blocked. And now we, as an industry, are responding in a variety of ways. However, there is only one way we should be looking at this.
Fred Wilson wrote an excellent post on AVC titled, Ad Blockers (bit.ly/25B3NFK). In this, he highlights many benefits of the ad blocking revolution, one being the notion that “there is a view that ads are unwanted and by opting out of them, you are forcing Web and mobile services to come up with a better business model.” And concludes with something we can all agree on, that ad blocking is not going away. In which case, we must embrace it, learn from it and build a better model and experience for users and brands alike.
This revolution can be analogous to the music industry and what happened with Napster in 1999. When Napster disrupted the music industry, everyone thought that music, as we knew it (artists, users, labels, etc.), was over. But with this, came Pandora, a new technology built from the learnings and needs of the user and the artist (the latter is debatable depending on who you speak to). And from that innovation spawned Spotify, Soundcloud and other music streaming services that from a user perspective, we couldn’t imagine living without.
The same mentality must be applied to the advertising industry. The answer isn’t blocking the blockers. Let’s listen to their needs, take it and build something new. Something that everyone will appreciate, and evolve the revenue model and experience into the next frontier.
This means building experiences on mobile that are native to that platform. 360 video, with tilt and tap behavior, shows the lengths we can go to make this medium great. Vertical video opens up a landscape of opportunity to leverage publisher technology to make brand advertising great. As we edge into VR and AR, there is a chance to define what “native advertising” is to these platforms, and not just place a banner on top of an experience.
Let’s build experiences users don’t want to block. The time is now. And it’s exciting. If we don’t think about it this way, then we haven’t learned anything. Let’s make a change.
Jarrod Dicker is head of ad product and technology at the Washington Post and founder of RED, the ad research experimentation and development team. Most recently, Dicker was head of product and operations at RebelMouse. He has also served as director of social and content ad products at Time Inc., and prior to that, he helped establish native advertising at the Huffington Post. Currently, he is involved with a Carnegie Mellon University program on the value of social advertising in publishing.