Ad blocking debate or Operation Middleman

RTB, Programmatic and Mobile

I will start with 2012. This is when everything in display became RTB. More and more dollars were shifting to this new and exciting medium that would allow for higher number of impressions on a lower CPM with data targeting options. The industry soon realized that there was something else in the pie that was poisoning the taste – ad fraud. So, as any wise ecosystem , it started to adapt and this is how Programmatic became mainstream, along with Private Auctions and Preferred Deals. Inventory became more and more transparent, data became more and more powerful.

You would think that the industry learned from this and, when mobile emerged, we would try things differently. The numbers prove otherwise. Despite the fact that some smart ad tech companies invested in programmatic direct platforms for mobile first, a recent eMarketer study shows that mobile RTB is growing at a faster rate than programmatic direct and will continue to do so in 2017.

There is no doubt that we made a couple of errors and that the industry could have been smarter in protecting the ecosystem. There is no surprise, in this context, that ad blocking gained so much traction with a user worn out by the constant spamming of irrelevant ads. When they finally found a more oxygenated landscape, the mobile screen, they were adamant to keep it like that.

And here is when things get complicated.

The Middle Men

Apple didn’t allow ad blockers on IOS 9 from the generosity of their heart. They did this to get some advantage over Google, and they planed a very strategic partnership with Facebook. First, Ad Blockers didn’t stop native ads on Apple News, nor ads on Facebook.

There is a new category that is emerging from all this turmoil and I am calling it the Middle Man. They are tech companies, Telco companies, basically anybody who is touching the ecosystem in the most insignificant way, who want a cut from the dollar a publisher is making when pushing content online.

A couple of examples:

A new ad blocking app just published on Apple Store claims that it can stop ads on mobile browsers, apps, including native and Apple News. The user will have to pay, though, with their data. By downloading and using the app that comes with a VPN, the user gives permission to capture all his data that will later be monetized.

A Telco company is looking to sign a partnership to block ads at the network level, so they can also get a share from the advertising dollars.

Captivated by this “Game of Thrones” the publishers are the only losers. At the end of the day, it is their content that is bringing people online. My only question is: are the users savvy enough to understand what they gain and what they give up when they install an ad blocker? It is still open for debate.

Read here about the latest IAB initiative to help publishers detect the ad blockers.