The curious case of ad blocking

    599 400 Apurv Lungade

    Ad blocking to become a serious issue, should you be worried

    This year ad blocking created a lot of buzz in the ad tech and digital advertising industry after Apple rolled out its iOS9 update in September, enabling ad blocking on mobile devices. Advertisers and publishers around the world are concerned and are trying to figure out the solution for ad blocking. Though a lot of advertisers and publishers are still not clear what’s at stake, let’s go through some data to analyze the situation at hand.

    ad-blockers-adoption-growth-chart

    There are about 144 million active ad block users around the world, which is 5% of all Internet users.The number of people actively using ad blockers in India increased from 2 million (second quarter of 2014) to 4 million (198 million globally) in the three months ended June, only about 2% of the total number of Internet users, but this number has been steadily climbing.

    What is an ad blocker?

    Ad Block is a program (software/hardware) that prevents ads from being displayed to the user on a web page. In most cases, ad blockers are available as browser extensions.

    An ad blocker can block display ads, video ads, mobile ads. Native advertising is still untouched by ad blockers. This advantage can make native advertising more popular among advertisers.

    How does and ad blocker work?

    Ad blocker uses three simple mechanisms to block ads.

    • Blocking Requests – As explained above, it checks for the 3rd party domains and blocks all incoming/outgoing requests to serve ads. If there is any mismatch between domains, the ad blocker will not run the script.
    • Element Hiding – Hides all foreign elements which are embedded in an ad
    • Filters – User can explicitly add filter rules or URLs to block ads from a set of specific ad networks

    Ad block uses source URL of images, iframes, scripts and flash files to identify advertisements in the page. And then it blocks (HTTP and HTTPS requests) and hides (CSS display, visibility, and height) those advertisements. It identifies the domain names of ad networks and also uses built-in filters and keywords to identify advertising links.

    The curious case of ad blocking

    Linux users have a staggering 29.04% blocking rate, compared with 12.95% for Mac users, and 9.25% for Windows users. Mobile blocking is gaining popularity: Android shows 2.24% blocking rate and iOS 1.33%.

    How to disable an ad blocker?

    Option 1: Get the domain whitelisted

    An ad network /server can directly approach an ad blocking company to whitelist their domain. But, it is solely at the discretion of the ad blocking company to go ahead with the whitelisting or not based on some parameters.

    Eyeo (the company behind ad block plus) is dealing with the aftermath of an article by the Financial Times, which reported that “not only Google but also Microsoft, Amazon and advertising network Taboola are among the companies paying to stop having their ads blocked. In response, users have blasted the company and have vented frustration with the software on social media and elsewhere. According to the Financial Times, companies pay 30 percent of additional ad revenue that they would make from being unblocked“.

    Limitations:

    1. No animations, no sound, no video – they call it non-intrusive
    2. User can explicitly restrict whitelisted ads too

    Option 2: Manipulate ad-blocker

    Step 1 – check if ad-blocker is present or not
    http://qnimate.com/how-to-detect-if-adblock-is-present-or-not/#prettyPhoto

    Step 2 –
    Secret Media developed a technology (patent pending), based on polymorphic encryption to pass ads through Ad Blockers, and to make sure that the ad Blockers are not able to identify these patterns code.

    Limitations
    The technique explained above is generally used in viruses or malicious software to hide its presence in the machine or website. In short, the method is not legally approved.
    Advanced options of ads blocker plus are capable of detecting few of such encrypted scripts thus it blocks those too.

    Conclusion:

    1. Till now there is no concrete solution to manipulate ad blocker.
    2. Keeping business loss of ad-networks/publishers into consideration, ad blocker supports non-intrusive and standard ads
    3. If we focus on the Indian digital advertising market, ad blocking has not become very popular yet if we compare it to the US and UK market.

    As advertisers, you should try and diversify your advertising delivery channels and make sure you’re using all the ad targeting options available to you. Do A/B testing to check which channel delivers the highest ROI. Try your hands at some innovative high impact ad units and native advertising.  Moreover, social media advertisement is still unaffected by ad blockers. You can also give users the option of AdChoices. So Indian agencies/ad networks can breathe a sigh of relief as we still have time at hand.

    As publishers, you should always focus on user experience. Allowing non-intrusive ads and innovative ad formats will not hurt user experience. You should also keep checking CTR’s of these ads to check how much your ads are being liked by your website visitor. Conduct periodic surveys to get valuable feedback from your end user.

    Author

    Apurv Lungade

    An amateur photographer, Apurv loves wildlife photography and is a Rubik's cube enthusiast. He works on bringing new products to the market.

    All stories by: Apurv Lungade

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