IAB Creates Guide for Publishers to Combat Ad Blocking

Organization Describes Six Tactics Including Paying the Ad Blockers

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In an effort to thwart the ever-increasing use of ad blocking software, the Interactive Advertising Bureau's tech lab has released a guide for publishers groping to respond.

Among the six potential tactics described: paying ad blocking companies to whitelist a site, revenue sharing with readers, and "ad reinsertion," a method where publishers shoehorn advertisements onto their websites even when visitors show up running blockers.

"While each tactic will likely be found inappropriate by some, providing insight into the breadth of actions available was deemed valuable, especially paired with guidance on the risks and benefits associated with each," the IAB wrote in its guide.

Indeed, the IAB does not make any specific recommendations of the six options, but it does offer its opinion on which might be the most effective, namely, making a "D.E.A.L" with the consumer to turn off ad blocking software in exchange for content.

Here D.E.A.L stands for detecting ad blocking, explaining the value exchange, asking for changed behavior and then lifting restrictions.

"We know that users are looking for choice and we have to respect that," said Scott Cunningham, senior VP-technology and ad operations at the IAB. "So let's offer them a choice, let's make them a D.E.A.L."

The deal approach resembles Forbes' move in December, when the publisher asked its audience to turn off ad blocking software in exchange for access to its content. "Forbes and the Washington Post and a number of different companies have been experimenting," Mr. Cunningham said. "Now, we know more about user tolerances in these types of things when it comes to ad blocking rates."

IAB members will have access to a free script that detects the presence of ad blocking software, something many ad tech companies are already selling to publishers for a profit. That script will allow publishers to intercept anyone who visits their site with a message offering a choice: Turn off your ad blocker in exchange for access to content.

The IAB also ran down pros and cons, from its perspective, on each of the six tactics it describes: The six tactics are Access Denial, Tiered Experience, Payment From Visitors, Ad Reinsertion, Payment to Ad Blocker Companies and Payment to Visitors, or revenue sharing.

Regarding paying ad blocking companies, the IAB says, "Payment and inclusion into some ad blocker whitelists may motivate users to migrate to more stringent ad blockers that do not allow any whitelisting, damaging the industry more overall." At the same time, paying ad blocking companies could also allow a publisher to "gain access to an audience using ad blockers."

"Our stance at the tech lab is to provide transparency of what the options are out there; we want to look at the situation from both sides," Mr. Cunningham said. "It doesn't mean we are endorsing paying ad blocking companies by any means, but we want to indicate the tactics that are happening within the industry. I think it was important for us to do our due diligence as much as possible."

The IAB said it worked with companies including Viacom, BuzzFeed, Tribune Publishing and Gawker Media to outline practical tactics for publishers to deal with ad blockers. D.E.A.L's goal is to give consumers an understanding of how ad blocking affects the free-content value exchange, Mr. Cunningham said.

D.E.A.L. and L.E.A.N.

Back in October, Mr. Cunningham penned an open letter on behalf of the IAB telling content providers and others, "We messed up."

"We build advertising technology to optimize publishers' yield of marketing budgets that had eroded after the last recession," Mr. Cunningham wrote. "Looking back now, our scraping of dimes may have cost us dollars in consumer loyalty."

The open letter was also the introduction of IAB principles it dubbed L.E.A.N., for Light, Encrypted, Ad Choice Supported and Non-Invasive. L.E.A.N. is also the IAB's latest technical standard for the global digital advertising supply chain.

"If we're going to make a deal with the customer, and that's what this is really about, making a deal, we obviously want to offer a L.E.A.N user experience in order for us to make that D.E.A.L," Mr. Cunningham said. "This guide really documents and crystallizes a lot of different options without making a recommendation on one or the other."