Sourcepoint founder Ben Barokas was in the hot seat during one of Dmexco's last sessions -- literally, there were electronic flames on either side of his seat on stage -- but he didn't melt.
Mr. Barokas, who is in a unique position as one of the few people coming to the aid of publishers threatened by ad-blocking software, drove home his company's positioning.
"As more people use more ad-blocking and don't provide an opportunity for publishers to monetize, then content will go away," he said. "Giving users control in the choice in how they compensate the publisher is the right way to go."
Its plan is to offer a menu of options when people with ad blockers enabled visit a publisher's site. What's on that menu would be up to each publisher, including appeals to allow standardized ads, appeals to provide more targeted advertising and appeals to pay for the content or sign up for an ad-free, subscription service.
It's unclear how the war between ad blockers and software that blocks the blockers will ultimately play out. But even in the room, the proof wasn't encouraging.
He opened his talk with his own informal survey to demonstrate the growth in ad-blocking. "How many people in this audience have an ad blocker?" he asked. When what appeared to be more than half the people in the room raising their hands, he said, "Wow, you make your living from advertising and also use ad blockers."
He went on to point out that some of the most popular apps in the app stores in Germany are ad blockers, and today two of the top apps in the U.S. in Apple's app store were ad-blocking apps. Ad blocking is on track to hit 50% penetration in the U.K. in 2017, and in the U.S. in 2018, according to Sourcepoint.
Many ad-blocking software companies keep a privacy list of who they're trying to block in an open-source community, he explained. From a technology perspective "it's not rocket science" getting around them, Mr. Barokas said.
He's fairly certain at this point that lawsuits aren't the answer. "I've seen a group of publishers in Germany take it on and lose twice, even on appeal."
So what's the solution in the short-term? Native advertising, said Mr. Barokas. Or just enjoyable content. "If a toilet paper [brand] creates content around remodeling a bathroom, a lot of people want to see that," he said.