WFA urges brands to take the right action for adblocking

A PageFair report has revealed how twice as many people are blocking ads on mobile browsers worldwide, and how ad blocking has surged 90% in just one year since January 2015. Moreover, 93% of the world’s adblockers are in Asia-Pacific.

At least 419 million people globally are blocking ads on smartphones. China, India and Indonesia are reporting 319 million active ad blocker browsers in March this year.

Members of the WFA and some of the world’s leading brands have been recognised and responded to the latest report which details the extent to which adblocking technologies are spreading globally.

“Brands, whose money has driven the development of the online ad ecosystem, must take responsibility. We get the message loud and clear; we must listen to what people are saying and take action,” said Stephan Loerke, CEO of the World Federation of Advertisers.

The study follows an analysis by Juniper released earlier this week, which found that by 2020 adblocking would cost publishers almost $US28 billion a year. The report includes a warning that:

Given the next billion Internet users will come online via low bandwidth, relatively expensive mobile connections and with readily-available mobile adblocking technologies, the next billion Internet users may be invisible to digital marketers.

Sean Blanchfield, CEO and co-founder of PageFair highlighted to WFA that “22% of the world’s 1.9bn smartphone users are blocking ads. The Blocked Web is growing steadily, and in-app ads are now vulnerable too.”

The research offers an unequivocal insight into people’s attitudes towards and efforts to avoid online advertising, particularly on mobile devices. The current experience is one people are clearly no longer willing to accept.

Advertising may pay for news, content, maps, messaging and social media platforms but people fail to make the link. Adblocking puts all of these benefits at risk. Left unaddressed, brands, publishers and people all stand to lose out.

Brands must focus on the causes in order to find sustainable solutions.  People are not to blame. The industry must look at itself, said the WFA.

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David Wheldon, CMO at RBS and WFA President is clear that “the industry needs to reflect on the rise of adblocking. Advertising has always been cultural wallpaper and we have a duty of care to make it as attractive and engaging as possible so that people enjoy it, not want to shut it out.”

As the new findings were announced, WFA called for the industry to take action. WFA envisages a three point process involving the creation of international standards for digital advertising, allowing consumers to establish clear preferences for the advertising they are willing to see and then regularly monitoring their responses.

It is essential that any action must have at its heart the consumer experience. WFA is working with third parties to identify granular data around formats, frequencies and the volume of advertising which people no longer accept. The findings will differ by demographics and geographies although there are likely to be some commonalities in terms of what triggers people to block ads.

The association has begun to identify the most credible methods of gathering consumer data and will begin to act on such information over the coming months. This process presents an opportunity which fits into leading brands’ overall strategies.

Luis Di Como, senior vice-president of global media at Unilever and member of the WFA Executive Committee noted how “as an industry we need to focus on creating content that is authentic, relevant for consumers and drives talkability - creative that enhances rather than detracts from users’ online experiences. We have an ambition to create a billion one-to-one relationships with our consumers through providing positive brand experiences.”

In parallel, WFA will bring together a broader coalition, particularly with leading publishers, to work together in order to take coordinated action at a global level. This is designed to support and enhance local initiatives which are already emerging.

Loerke added that "Brand owners must take a long-term view and envisage an acceptable and sustainable online advertising environment. Our vision is an ecosystem where brands, publishers and the entire supply chain put people first.”

Roel De-Vries, CMO at Nissan and also a WFA Executive Committee member, hit a note of optimism that the industry will rise to the challenge. “It is our responsibility to reach our customers with strong content they are interested in via channels they choose. If we do our job well, we will always be able to reach them,” he noted.