There’s a big problem with internet advertising: more and more consumers are getting irked by pop-up ads while they’re trying to concentrate on their news feeds or video entertainment. But internet giants are fighting back with a range of measures, including legal action, to dissuade the rising use of ad blocking software.
The reason is obvious. Webmasters who specialise in promoting, say, the best quality content writing on their sites have to pay for the talent they rely on to create it. Advertising helps them do just that, keeping digital content free to the user at the point of consumption. But whereas ad blockers were once the preserve of youngsters or the seriously nerdy, today they’re far more widely used. With free downloads for programmes like Adblock Plus being increasingly taken up, pop-up ads that emblazon an entire screen and those short “pre-roll” ads that appear before the video you want to see are toast: very few of them survive the programme’s wrath.
In the UK, Adblock Plus has two million active users, while in France there are nearly five million (Spain boasts 1.5 million). The dream, of course, is completely free internet surfing without any kind of payback – a fantasy that’s increasingly getting actualised and creating a nightmare for web publishers and advertisers who rely on ads to finance content.
Given that $545bn of the global advertising pot went on digital ads this year alone, it’s no surprise that digital publishers in France (including Google, Microsoft and Le Figaro newspaper) are threatening legal action against the developers of ad blocking software.
Simultaneously, a number of websites are stopping short of legal reprisals and adopting subtler but potentially very effective strategies. The French sports daily L’Equipe, for example, presents visitors who use ad blocking software with the following message (instead of the video or other content they were hoping to access):
“Unauthorised access. L’Equipe.fr is funded by advertising, which allows us to offer you free content.”
The solution for the user is then simple: deactivate the software and the content will be instantly available.
Advertisers, for their part, may be prompted to develop less intrusive forms of advertising. Google, for instance, has launched “Google Contributor”, which charges users $2-$3 a month to enjoy ad-free consumption (the money raised is sent to the affected sites.