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Ad blocking: The release of iOS 9 and Ad Block Plus for the mobile web

Ad blocking: The release of iOS 9 and Ad Block Plus for the mobile web

WHAT’S HAPPENED?

Until recently, ad blockers have been available only as desktop browser extensions, but – with more and more traffic shifting to mobile – Apple has announced that it will be including an ad blocking function in iOS 9’s Safari browser.

Will this move restrict access to sought-after segments and free currently-ad-supported content online? This brief offers our point of view and action steps we will be pursuing to ensure your plans are protected and optimised.

PUTTING THIS MOVE IN CONTEXT…

Ad blocking isn’t new; nearly $22 billion worth of advertising has already been blocked so far in 2015 through desktop browser extensions and we simply work around it, ensuring that you pay only for ads that are fully viewable.

Apple’s latest move is expected to impact the $70 billion annual mobile marketing business, but it’s not clear to what degree. The release of iOS 9 will offer Safari users the ability to block mobile web ads on iPhones and iPads. If Safari has 25% of all mobile web browsing, then – worst case – eliminating 25% of all mobile web ads could put some publishers and ad tech companies out of business.

In addition to Apple’s release of iOS 9, open-source multi-browser app Ad Block Plus (ABP) has just announced the release of a mobile app that can also block ads on an iOS browser, but only when a user surfs the web from within its app. Is this as big a development? No, but it’s yet another move that will be addressed as we build our plans.

WHAT ARE WE DOING ABOUT THIS?

The increase in mobile ad blocking technology underscores the critical importance of using an accredited third party mobile ad server. Why?

  • Most ad blockers block the ad call entirely. If an ad call is blocked, it will not register with the ad server and will not be counted. If the ad is not counted, there is no media or impression cost to the advertiser. However, there are instances in which only the use of an MRC-accredited mobile ad server will be able to accurately report whether or not an ad was delivered.
  • The publisher may not know the ad call was blocked, due to masking by the ad blocker, and count the ad as served.
  • Medialets (a WPP company) is currently the only buy side mobile ad server to have achieved the MRC accreditation. Working with preferred suppliers, MediaCom only pay for an impression that has been delivered, dramatically reducing media wastage.
  • Viewability standards do not yet exist on mobile. In the absence of such practices (which could help ensure ads are served and seen), the use of an accredited ad server is our only line of defence.

STAY TUNED

Why has Apple done this and what will happen? Pundits hypothesise that this is an effort to make apps more attractive to publishers and users, since Apple earns 30% on revenue generated from in-app ads served on its iAds platform.

We can be sure that publishers won’t sit back helplessly. It’s possible that some may no longer optimise their sites for Safari, thereby impacting customer experience, and we certainly expect some to hit back with technology that “blocks the blockers.” This technology already exists, and YouTube is employing its own version for now.

The largest open question pertains to the “free internet” where most users consume free content on ad-supported sites. Asking users to pay for ad-free content or subscriptions are two ideas that have never gained traction at scale, so ad blocking is likely to put added pressure on ad-supported publishers.

What’s clear is that a growing number of consumers are railing against the current advertising experience, which can be particularly invasive and disruptive on a mobile device.

In the short-term, we are employing third party mobile ad services to ensure that mobile impressions are counted correctly and marketers pay only for ads that are delivered.  Long-term, we are optimistic that the rise of mobile ad blocking will bring about fewer, higher-quality ads, in truly native environments, that do not interfere with the consumer experience.

For more information please reach out to our Global Head of Mobile, Ben Phillips (ben.phillips@mediacom.com).

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