IAB To Help Publishers Fight Ad Blocking, Says It’s Still Considering Legal Action
Online advertising trade organization is working on ways to help publishers educate users about how ad blockers can hurt businesses.
The Interactive Advertising Bureau opened a new front in its battle against ad-blocking companies Tuesday, announcing the creation of a working group and an online hub to help publishers deal with software that strips advertising from their sites.
“We don’t want to see highway robbery becoming the norm across the Web,” said Scott Cunningham, the general manager of the IAB’s Technology Lab. “When it comes to how ad blocking effects [sic] small publishers, there is no question that ad-blocking companies are holding their sites, their livelihoods in fact, hostage.”
There has been speculation that the IAB might sue ad-blocking companies, and Cunningham said the trade group is still looking at its legal options. “No conclusions have been reached on this,” he said during an Ad Week New York press conference.
So for now, the IAB is working to help publishers educate users about a trend that has become a hot-button issue since Apple started supporting mobile ad-blockers with its iOS 9 release this month. Soon after iOS 9 launch, several ad-blockers jumped to the top of the paid app lists (although their popularity has now slipped).
Cunningham said the battle between ad-blockers and publishers is a daily war between engineers. “The arms race has already begun,” he said. IAB hopes that the informational hub and working group — an international council of industry executives — will help even the playing field for publishers.
The IAB is recommending that publishers open a dialogue with users who have activated ad-blockers, but that smaller publishers often lack the resources to detect such use. To make that possible, the IAB tech lab plans to release a beta detection script.
Identifying users of blockers is the first step toward communicating with users, and IAB has some suggestions about possible things to say. Some publishers might ask their users to turn off ad-blockers, others might ask people to subscribe to a newsletter. Some larger publishers might want to ask people to pay to subscribe.
These moves are a continuation of IAB efforts to standardize ads to make them less intrusive and improve the user experience, including recommendations to trade Flash for HTML5 and other ways to lighten ad loads. The group is also looking at how ad servers can be made more secure by moving to https.
“Make no mistake we have heard loud and career that consumers do value content but also value site performance across devices,” Cunningham said. “It’s time for us to double down about how we are executing standards and making sure we are putting appropriate controls and protocols out there for the market to adopt. Small publications and large publications. It’s time we improved the user experience.”
Recognizing the increasing urgency of the issue, the IAB added a short session about ad-blocking to its annual Ad Week conference this week and brought in three small publishers to talk about how they are being hurt.
One of those publishers, Rick Jaworski, CEO of JoyOfBaking.com, said 10 percent of his visitors use desktop ad-blocking software. He’s not seeing a significant number of people using mobile ad-blockers but doesn’t know whether that’s because the detection software is just not seeing it yet.
Jaworski doesn’t blame people who use ad-blockers, though. He said he is often annoyed by bad mobile ad experiences, and in the last week, he pulled an ad network from his site because it served page takeover ads.
“I don’t want to be part of the reason for people to install these ad-blockers,” Jaworski said. “Unfortunately, I can’t control anybody else.”
“I think that it’s great there’s a recognition in the industry that this is a problem, it’s something that we need to solve. I don’t think we need to start a war though. I think we need to look at the reasons why people install ad-blockers, why there is a market for this product.”