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Ad blocking and its role in the discrepancy Dark Ages

Following a period of relative peace in regard to discrepancy, it looks like the market is perched on a precipice – disparity is due to come to the fore again.

Viewability is nearing its maturation as a concept. It is already very much in play in the United States and will soon be unleashed in earnest on the United Kingdom market. Both buy and sell sides are building their towers and digging their “moats” – they’ve had plenty of time to build a solid defence against this new metric.

Padding for ad server discrepancy is currently between 5% and 10%. This took years of trial and error to be resolved and is based on the dependencies of ad servers talking to each other.

What happens when those servers have to integrate with multiple external vendors doing multiple levels of ad tech work on both the buy and sell sides?

There is still a fundamental issue between 100% viewability and the IAB’s recommended 70% viewability threshold. Dark viewability is a concept that is just as ominous as it sounds. Essentially, the average number of impressions an MRC (Media Rating Council) accredited vendor cannot measure is up to 30%. That is 30% written off as non-viewable.

Is this to be added to our discrepancy padding, or should the viewability of the measured 70% be modelled to the remainder?

In the meantime, if viewability is the war outside the gates that everyone has been building and strategising for, ad blocking has already snuck inside the stronghold.

According to a 2014 report, there are currently 144 million active ad blocker users in the world. Usage grew by 70% between June 2013 and June 2014, and includes 41% of 18-24 year olds.

After failing to label Eyeo (makers of Adblock Plus) as “anti-competitive,” it remains to be seen what the next course of action will be for German publishers. Adblock Plus operates a paid for whitelist, which makes their product particularly controversial, especially when they urge publishers to consider joining as a “tax.”

A beta release of the latest Google Chrome browser contains a curious feature. It has the ability to “intelligently” pause Flash content that isn’t “central to the Web page.” While this won’t affect delivery figures (yet), it may have a large impact on CTRs and engagement.

An upside to this is that it may be the push the market needs to move to HTML5 ads as a standard instead of Flash.

Whether this needs to be taken into consideration for future discrepancy figures is also a lingering question, but something that needs to be addressed soon.

Safari Mobile is also gearing up for ad blocking by going native. In the developer notes for iOS9 it states “content blocking gives your extensions a fast and efficient way to block cookies, images, resources, pop-ups, and other content.”

PC Magazine has a very interesting view on this: “Who won’t get screwed by mobile Safari’s content blocking? Apple’s iAds.”

For viewability, accreditation will be the key. Consistency and resolve to stick to universal methodologies will clean up issues but this will take time and learning.

Ad blocking compounds the discrepancy problem as it limits the pool of advertising inventory, but will this also strip out some of the more unnecessary ads? With a reduction in banner blindness, ads may become more relevant than ever, when they do eventually appear.

If we are entering the Dark Ages, the Renaissance is on the horizon.

About Ian Curtis

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