Advertising Week 2015

IAB Starts Publicity and Engineering Battle Against Ad Blocking

Introduces Script to Help Publishers Detect Even Cloaked Blockers

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IAB President-CEO Randall Rothernberg
IAB President-CEO Randall Rothernberg

The Interactive Advertising Bureau elevated its fight against ad blockers on Tuesday, with President-CEO Randall Rothenberg renewing what he called his "cri de coeur" against the practice and showcasing small publishers being hurt by the practice. The organization also said it was taking new steps to help those publishers fight back.

Because many ad blockers cloak their presence, for example, the IAB said it had developed code to help small publishers tell when consumers arrive intending to stiff-arm their ads.

The IAB has come up with code, for example, that it said will help small publishers detect consumers who show up with ad blocking activated. "We believe this script will actually help enable them in their fight just by enabling their ability to detect," said Scott Cunningham, senior VP at IAB and general manager of the IAB Tech Lab, at a press conference during the annual IAB Mixx conference, which coincides with Advertising Week.

Some publishers that see ad-blocking visitors arrive greet them with dialogue boxes encouraging a change of heart or, failing that, perhaps becoming paid subscribers. But the open architecture of many web pages has allowed ad blockers to hide even those dialogue boxes, Mr. Cunningham said. The IAB is recommending that publishers switch to more secure protocols to prevent that.

But advertisers and publishers don't want to get stuck in a never-ending engineering war with ad blockers. And it hasn't gone unnoticed that digital advertising as currently delivered drives some consumers into the arms of blockers.

"Part of the problem is as an industry we have gone a little bit overboard on the advertising," said Rick Jaworski, CEO at JoyOfBaking.com, during a main-stage session with Mr. Rothenberg designed to publicize the plight of publishers. "For myself, when I go to a lot of sites these days, i'm irritated and I want an ad blocker."

"They have a bus that they're trying to run," Mr. Jaworski said, "I don't like their business, but we need to remove their model by removing the need for their product."

The IAB's new group working on the problem will convene its first meeting next week, aiming to study and experiment with responses including a more clutter-free web experience, strict guidelines for the data that ads traffic in, public messaging and renewed promotion of the industry's AdChoices program, which aims to give consumers some control over their digital experience.

The IAB is also exploring potential legal remedies -- and watching court cases in Germany that have been going in ad blockers' favor. "No conclustions have been reached," Mr. Cunningham said.

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