Ad blockers could jeopardize $1 billion presidential campaign online-ad industry

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Online political advertising seems like a win-win proposition; an affordable way for campaigns to get the message out and a steady stream of revenue to keep websites and business.

And it is a lucrative proposition, too. Presidential contenders are expected to spend nearly $1 billion in online ad revenue for the 2016 cycle.

However, according to Zach Montellaro of the National Journal, the advent of ad blocking software – low-cost or, in some cases, free – puts the industry in jeopardy.

With campaigns, for online advertising to work, voters must see the ads. But if software prevents an audience from seeing them, the intended effect is lost.

That creates a challenge for both sides, Montellaro writes: how to get campaigns to pay for ad space when they know that users can block the ads at any time.

Matt DeLuca, vice president at Engage, a digital agency that produces and distributes ads, believes that ad-blocking software is something the industry should be concerned about.

“To just write it off, I think, is just negligent to the client,” he told the Journal.

The popularity of ad-blocking software makes it difficult to overlook. Adobe estimates the number of number ad-blocking software users at 45 million in just the United States. A report by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism found that 47 percent of Internet users in America regularly apply ad-blocking software to eliminate ads. Around a third will “actively avoid sites where ads interfere with content.”

But the industry is not taking this lightly and has taken some steps to ensure the ads being paid for are actually viewed.

To start, Montellaro writes that the Media Rating Council, an industry coalition and the Interactive Advertising Bureau, an online advertiser trade association, or redefining standards of “viewable impressions” for website ads.

Viewable impressions for desktop ads are now considered “50 percent of {the ad’s] pixels viewable for a minimum of one second, with some allowances made for the size of the ad. For desktop video, the threshold is two seconds of visibility.

Next, verification services for such first-party systems as Google and Facebook, as well as third-party services like Nielsen, gauge what percentage of the ads are actually viewable.

“Al­most every single veri­fic­a­tion ser­vice will run in two ways,” DeLuca explains. The first is making sure both the page and the ad renders properly on a desktop or mobile device, with noth­ing in front of it or be­hind. Next is that they keep a list of which pub­lish­ers, IPs, com­puters, vendors, net­works, and any­one having problems with view­able ads.

The two-step verification process will allow advertisers to understand how much of their ads are actually viewable on the page, and which ones are being blocked by software, or by other means like hijacking malware. The services will then submit the information to an advertising network to make sure clients get the viewable impressions they pay for.

Avoiding ads is nothing new for consumers and advertisers. The Reuters Institute report says that nearly 30 percent of Americans simply ignore advertising, so blocking online ads may be new, but avoiding ads altogether is not. Regardless of the method used, people who do not want to look at ads will just avoid them – whether it is digital video recorders for television, or by throwing away junk mail.

Now, Internet advertisers can join the party, of those searching for new ways to get ads seen by more viewers.

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