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Publishers join to block ad blockers

News, 15 March 2016

STOCKHOLM: Publishers in Sweden, backed by the local IAB, are joining forces to collectively block ad blockers for a month this summer and will subsequently share their findings.

Across the sites of 90% of the country's publishers, consumers with ad blocking software installed will be denied access to content unless the blocker is disabled, according to Digiday.

They will also be offered other options, including making a small one-off payment to view content or seeing a lower-quality version which could mean only part of an article or low-resolution video.

The initiative has been gestating for at least a year, according to Charlotte Thür, CEO of the IAB Sweden, during which time the proportion of people blocking ads has risen from 20% to 30%.

"We thought it was a problem then," she said. "Now we have to do something more powerful."

While IAB Sweden intends to share its findings, some observers are already sceptical of their wider value, pointing out that what works in the Swedish market – which is small and has a history of a commitment to fairness – is unlikely to translate widely.

"These types of initiatives tend to work better in Sweden, Norway, or Denmark than the UK, France or Italy," said Eleni Marouli, analyst at IHS Technology.

And Steve Chester, director of data and industry programs at the IAB UK agreed that "It will be a massive challenge for companies that compete fiercely for readership to unify".

But most people don't turn to ad blockers just because they dislike advertising per se – typically the decision to shut off brand messaging, noted Warc's Trend Snapshot on the issue, results from industry-side failings, or what Randall Rothenberg, President/CEO of the IAB US, called "mistreating our most valuable asset – our consumers".

So disruptive advertising formats, slower load speeds, reduced battery life for mobile devices and security (in the form of both privacy and freedom from viruses) are all factors that have boosted the uptake of ad blocking software by individuals, while some mobile operators have introduced it at a network level.

Accordingly, IAB Sweden is also looking to standardise ad formats and improve the quality of advertising.

Data sourced from Digiday; additional content by Warc staff