What AdBlock’s War on Banners Means for Brands

“You’re either with us or . . . you’re annoying” seems to be the mantra of Adblock Plus, a web plugin with its own set of laws about what online advertising should be.

Adblock Plus was created to squelch out bad advertising on the internet, letting users stream YouTube videos or graze on buzzy news stories to their hearts’ content without having their experience debased by ads. Its mission is decidedly populist, “to make the internet better for everyone,” turning  the power back to the people by enabling them to filter out flashy animation and intrusive pop-ups.

The plugin recently celebrated its 200th million download on Firefox, where it’s the browser’s most-downloaded add-on. Its increasing popularity is making banner ads a far less effective way for brands to reach potential customers.

Internet math used to be simple: more page views equaled more advertising revenue. But Adblock has changed the equation by allowing users to choose which sites they want to support by enabling ads and which sites should be punished for their obnoxious advertisements.

Destructoid, a video game news and community website, has been hit hard by aggressive Adblock users. Niero Gonzales, founder of Destructoid, told On The Media  that although Destructoid was receiving upward of 14 million pageviews per month, its tech-savvy readership was shunning ads and using Adblock to filter out the site’s primary revenue stream.

Gonzales responded by publishing a statement to inform readers that by disabling ads they were strangling the site’s earnings.

It didn’t work.

Though some readers expressed sympathy, the majority of the 36 to 40 percent of the overall readers who use Adblock Plus ignored Gonzales’s request

Adblock makes no apologies. A cohort of Germany-based websites banded together in May to protest Adblock. Several of them displayed an anti-Adblock banner, linking readers to a separate site that explained how to disable the plugin.

Adblock responded with a snarky tweet to thank the attempted cyber-coup for the free publicity;

“The request from German publishers to turn off #adblock led to +129%@AdblockPlus installs & +167% donations. Thanks!”

Adblock remains adamant that it is not stealing from anyone.

“We believe high-quality journalism is important and should of course be profitable,” said Till Faida, Adblock Plus’ managing director. “However, publishers have made a strategic mistake by still using only blinking banners instead of innovating to better forms of advertising which are accepted by their audience.”

By banning flashy advertising, Adblock is promoting advertising forms that are more engaging and of higher quality.

Essentially, Adblock is paving the way for a content-driven marketplace to flourish. By banning flashy advertising, Adblock is promoting advertising forms that are more engaging and of higher quality.

In an attempt to bridge the gap, Adblock recently launched its Acceptable Ads initiative.

“[The initiative] aims to facilitate a middle ground between users of Adblock Plus and websites that need to monetize through ads by letting unobtrusive ads go through,” Faida said.

“The Internet is a medium in which people can’t be forced to watch crappy ads, so let’s be more creative and produce something of actual value!”

Image by Flickr
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