The statements, opinions, and advertisements expressed on the ERA Blog and other online entities owned by the Electronic Retailing Association are those of individual authors and companies and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Electronic Retailing Association.
No, really. Ad blocking can be a good thing. As you are undoubtedly aware, the entire advertising industry is up in arms over the onset and adoption of this technology. In fact, IAB Chairman Randall Rothenberg recently launched into a lengthy screed, decrying ad blocking companies and labeling them “unethical, immoral, mendacious coven of techie wannabes,” who have waged a war against diversity and freedom of expression. Alas, it doesn’t matter what Mr. Rothenberg thinks. People hate intrusive and obnoxious ads and they will continue to do what they can to avoid them.
But let’s back up for a minute. Remember email spam? Yea, you know that pile of garbage that would land in your inbox unchecked? Well, just like an ad blocking company eradicating the Internet of bad ads, email vendors developed spam filters. Then they developed whitelists. Then the government became involved and CAN-SPAM was born. Sure, a few bad emails slip through once in awhile, but it’s nothing like it was prior to the rules being set up.
The same progression of events should now take place with ad blocking. If a set of rules, laws, guidelines, or technologies can help minimize the amount of spammy emails a person receives, then certainly a similar approach can help mitigate the avalanche of bad ads that pummel people on a daily basis.
As ad blockers become more popular, it’s not just traditional online advertisers who are being affected. It’s also merchants and publishers in the affiliate marketing space who are experiencing a loss in revenue due to their ads being blocked by the likes of AdBlock Plus, uBlock Origin, Ghostery. And when one bad apple in a large network causes an ad to be blocked, every program within that network becomes blocked as well. That isn’t good for anyone.
Here’s a thought. Why don’t those of us involved in affiliate marketing set out to accomplish exactly what CAN-SPAM accomplished; create processes and procedures to work with ad blocking? Actually, we’re already doing that at Pepperjam, but let’s talk more broadly about the issue for now.
For those who are going to jump in and argue that ad blocking approaches include an element of extortion, you are partially right, at least at this juncture. However, if ad blocking companies were to operate based on a set of guidelines analogous to those that were set up with CAN-SPAM, then the playing field is leveled and everyone lives by the same rules.
Leveraging ad blocking within the affiliate marketing space would amount to correcting bad behavior, which is really a win for everyone. When ads get blocked, everyone loses. The network loses money. The advertiser loses money. The affiliate loses money. And frankly, the consumer loses as well because, let’s be honest, advertising is still a great way to tell people about new products.
Currently advertisers can pay an ad blocking company to be placed on their whitelists so their ads are shown, as long as they adhere to a set of rules. But what if that payment came in the form of a commission paid to the ad blocking company, which among other things, would fund and motivate everyone to develop and promote within established guidelines? Money talks. A commission structure would award more money to those who abide by the rules and less to those who don’t.
This entire process could be automated through affiliate compliance entities that would receive notifications from ad blocking entities, and the compliance company, in turn, could notify the network which could notify the offending (or unaware) affiliate or merchant so that the problem could be corrected.
People hated spam, and it got dealt with. People hate annoying advertising, so ad blocking is here to stay. That means those of us in the affiliate space have to do our part to work within a world of ad blocking that, despite what Randall Rothenberg may wish for, is not going away. I suggest we think about how people consume advertising and try to make the experience better. If we work together and forge ahead to develop a new set of rules, guidelines, and technologies that benefit everyone, ad blocking can co-exist with, and perhaps even benefit the affiliate channel.
Photo by atibodyphoto/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Greg Shepard is Chief Strategy Officer for Pepperjam.