LONDON: Rather than fighting it, advertisers and publishers ought to welcome ad blocking as a wake-up call that makes them think seriously about the effectiveness of the current online communications model, a leading industry figure has said.

Writing in the current issue of Market Leader, marketing consultant Peter Field argues that the industry has generally taken the wrong approach to tackling the problem.

The IAB's DEAL guidelines, for example, demonstrate "futile thinking" underpinned by "the unquestioning conviction of moral superiority, i.e. that ad blocking is wrong – that publishers need to re-educate or force the consumer into acceptance".

And while its LEAN ads programme is better, he suggests that the current principles amount to little more than "let's irritate consumers less".

But if the industry can properly address the underlying drivers of ad blocking it rejuvenates online advertising, he says.

"It will be great for effectiveness because annoying advertising has always been highly inefficient advertising", only likely to influence purchase with an incentive or offer and doing nothing for long-term sales growth while adversely affecting brand equity.

Field observes that TV ad avoidance is not a major problem because much TV advertising is entertaining or liked for other reasons, and ad load is controlled at a level where consumers do not feel bombarded or irritated.

"This was understood more than 30 years ago; sadly, the online advertising community did not consider such old learning to be in any way relevant to new media. Hubris compounded by ignorance."

He believes that part of the answer to ad blocking will involve a shift to "long-term, soft-sell approaches", which don't annoy consumers and which will be "hugely beneficial to effectiveness".

For brands, he also anticipates a "revolution" in online metrics, with Big Data focused on short-term sales replaced by "Long Data", while publishers will shift to smaller volumes of higher quality advertising.

Ad blocking, he concludes, "will force the abandonment of numerous misguided shibboleths about online ads", which has to be good news for marketers.

Data sourced from Market Leader