Online advertising targeting

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Ad blocking has become a thing; with a UK government minister likening it to a protection racket kneecapping online advertising targeting. This felt similar to  the the early 2000s and political action against file sharing.

A cursory glance of publicly available data shows a few  things:

  • Correctly targeted advertising (in terms of content type, context and placement) would have a substantial receptive audience – if consumer opinions are to be believed
  • Current advertising technologies are negatively impacting consumer web experience by driving up page load times dramatically
  • Ad-blocking usage is steadily increasing, so governments have their work cut out regulating it out of existence

This starts to paint a picture of something being broken in the way advertisers deploy targeting technologies and the way targeting technologies work.

Government regulation is only likely to delay industry change. If the music industry is an analogue to follow ad blocking would look at legal means to slow things down and then technological means to resolve the issue.

The bigger question is, is the problem resolvable? The ad industry is being squeezed on multiple fronts:

  • Ad blockers don’t like the detrimental user experience that they get from interception-based advertising and extremely long page load times
  • The economics of ad funded content doesn’t work for a lot of online publications, leading to a flight to subscription based business models. This would negate ad blocking; because there would be less ad inventory to block
  • Power in online advertising is coalescing in the hands of Amazon, Facebook and Google in the West. In China the equivalent companies would be Tencent, Baidu and Alibaba. Ad blocking is probably the least of many online advertising companies worries
  • In general, online advertising is used in an ineffective short-termist way. Marketing campaigns are becoming less efficient. Marketers are starting to pay attention to this, although the change may take a lot of time. Again this represents a bigger worry in the medium to long term for online advertisers than ad blocking

More information

IAB Ad Blocking FAQs 2015 (PDF download)
IAB Believes Ad Blocking Is Wrong
Adblocking is a ‘modern-day protection racket’, says culture secretary | The Guardian
Advertising isn’t the problem with ad-blockers – telecoms edition
Advertising isn’t the problem with ad-blockers