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Agencies blamed for ad blocking

News, 30 March 2016

NEW YORK: It has long been recognised that a slow-loading web page is one of the reasons that encourages consumers to download ad blocking software, but now a number of US publishers are criticising ad agencies for the problem.

For many publishers the issue centres on agencies who deliver "fat ads", often at the 11th hour, which can be packed with data-consuming visuals and metrics that slow down the user experience.

These heavily loaded ads don't work well on mobile devices and risk alienating users, according to publishers speaking to the Wall Street Journal.

"We are at a crossroads," said Tim Mahlman, president of publisher platforms at AOL. "People are pointing the finger back at us, yet the advertisers are [always] wanting to push the envelope on creative. There has to be a common ground. Can we do killer ads not at the cost of turning people away?"

He explained that one of the problems is that the advertising industry's heavy focus on viewability often means agencies supply ads with the largest file sizes.

This happens even when they are supplied with specification guidelines, according to Mark Howard, chief revenue officer at Forbes.

He said Forbes provides its ad partners with guidelines for the type of ads it accepts, but still receives ads that can be four to nine times larger than the maximum file size it recommends.

Some industry practitioners on the agency side accept there is a problem, but report coming under great pressure from brand marketers to push rich-laden ads.

For example, Harry Kargman, chief executive of mobile ad firm Kargo, said he had tried to get advertisers to stop running full-screen, mobile interstitial ads because consumers strongly dislike them, yet marketers keep wanting them delivered.

He added that the late delivery of ads is often because of the lengthy approval process between clients and their agencies.

"Brands and agencies are well aware of page load times, ad blocking, etc, but take zero responsibility for it at a campaign level," Kargman said.

However, other agency figures strongly disagreed that "fat ads" should be blamed on agencies and brand marketers.

"I just don't think we have a good idea on realistically how much bloated ad sizes truly impact page load speeds," said Abe Diaz, vice president and associate media director at the agency RPA.

"I strongly believe that the bigger issue is the number of ads publishers are putting on pages, how and when those ads load, and all the various trackers that the sites themselves place on their pages."

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal; additional content by Warc staff