Will Ad blocking nurture greater creativity?

In November 2016, Eyeo GmbH, the German creators behind ad blocking software Adblock Plus, fended off a sixth legal challenge against itself, from media publishers over the legality of its software. In each case brought against Eyeo GmbH and Adblock Plus, the judge has ruled in favour that adblocking is 100% legal.

Media publishers have been the biggest critics of adblocking, publishers such as Germany’s Der Spiegel and America’s Forbes believe that adblocking causes a significant loss of revenue for the websites concerned, meaning that such sites may struggle to produce content that users freely enjoy.

On the other side, consumers are saying they find the distraction of uninvited adverts to be both annoying and disrupting. They say that ad blocking is a legitimate and recognised tool for enhancing the user’s internet experience.

Spiegel Online (the plaintiff in the sixth case brought against Eyeo GmbH) presented their view, that consumers instead should submit to the media and ‘read their news content for free and view some ads’. Now, this opinion seems completely flawed as an advertising strategy to me. What is the point in adverts if they are to be forced onto an audience who have no interest in looking at them? It will only succed in frustrating them.

I think the blanketed advertising approach is a dated strategy, modern consumers are not a passive audience and the huge uptake of ad blocking software indicates that they do not want to be force-fed adverts. I believe that the rise of ad blocking is a backlash in protest of tired and backward marketing conventions.

Digital marketing is moving towards an avenue where content is personalised and made-to-fit the audience rather than the aforementioned blanketed targeting strategies. Content needs to be valuable to the end user and therefore firms need to be more inventive with the content they target the consumer with. This is the reason why I think ad blocking is a positive thing, and why it should help to nurture greater creativity.

For example, you may have noticed that Netflix changes its home screen depending on the shows that you watch and offers suggestions to you for related content that you may also enjoy. This is a useful application of personalised content that encourages the user to stay on the website for longer. I know Netflix definitely do not have a problem with retaining their audience – rather we as the audience have a problem with knowing when to call it a night! This is really an example of how online marketing can now work for us rather than the other way around. If Netflix’s program recommendations were not based upon personalised algorithims who would stick around?

Web users are using ad blocking when advertising becomes a nuisance or disrupts their online experience, but if online marketing can aid the users online experience like in this example then that removes the need for ad blocking.

I do partially agree with Spiegel Online in that media publishers need a source of revenue to fund their content and advertising is the most obvious solution to this problem. However, their advertising needs to be of use to the consumer, and not disrupt their experience.

By doing this firms can then begin to build trust in the consumer and then consumers will feel more obligated to scale back their ad blocking. This process is crucial if the online advertising medium is to still to have impact.