Facebook v/s AdBlock cat-and-mouse chase recently caught fire when Facebook updated its ad preference mechanism to nullify ad blockers. This definitely didn’t go down well with the ad-blocking community that found a workaround to render Facebook’s update useless.
Until a few years ago, ad blocking was only publishers’ and Google’s headache – directly impacting both of their revenue stream. Albeit, the sheer increase in the number of ad block users and Apple hopping on the ad blocking bandwagon – the technology evolved into a much bigger debate.
Why is Facebook fretting?
Ad block users have been on a steep rise since 2014. According to data by Page Fair and Adobe, the number of users with ad blocking increased 70 per cent y-o-y in 2014, reaching to 144 million; the figure further saw a rise of 50 per cent in 2015.
Facebook acknowledged ad blocking as a potential threat for the first time in its annual 10-k filing earlier this year. The annual report expressed Facebook’s fear of technologies like ad block impacting their advertising revenue from time to time.
A report by Business Insider, shares that Facebook earns 96 per cent of its revenues from advertising, the social networking giant, recorded a figure that gets adversely affected with ad block.
In 2 2016, mobile advertising accounted for 82 per cent of Facebook’s revenue, increasing by 9 per cent from the previous year. With increasing number of adblock users on mobile (data by PageFair states that there are as of March 2016, 419 million use ad blockers on their mobile device. In India, 122 million people use ad blocking browsers) Facebook’s mobile advertising revenue is likely to get impacted.
Ad blocking on mobile took a lethal form for Facebook with the launch of in-app ad blockers which directly impacts Facebook Audience Network or FAN. Facebook launched FAN in 2014 – an advertising network that empowers vendors to advertise off Facebook amongst a network of apps with the same targeting and measurement tools that they used for advertising on the social media giant. FAN accounts for 6 per cent of all the time spent on mobile apps and offers both native and display ads, giving brands an opportunity to increase their impressions by 6 – 10 per cent. Ad-blockers’ impact on FAN’s performance can be pretty strong.
Earlier this year, Facebook recorded a $1B annual run rate for advertising spend through the Audience Network “with the bulk of that value being passed to publishers, and the remainder being recorded as net revenue for Facebook.” Facebook even shut down it’s ad server business LiveRail to shift focus on FAN.
While ad block is moving speedily to question almost everything Facebook offers through FAN and its other mobile advertising options, it already gives users the option to directly block a lot of Facebook’s advertising efforts. For instance, AdBlock Plus allows users to block Trending, Music Pages You May Like (and similar updates), Add to Movies (and similar requests), People You May Know, Recommended Pages, Suggested Groups, Upcoming Events, Most Shared on a Page, Right Side Bar Ads, and a lot more.
The cat-and-mouse chase
According to AdBlock, Facebook took “the dark path by decided to start forcing ad-blocking users to see ads on its desktop site.” AdBlock soon updated its script which blocked the use of adblockers on Facebook. Nonetheless, Facebook might “re-circumvent” again – thus, Facebook might write a new code to work around AdBlock’s updated and the ad-blocking community will then find a solution around – a big viscous circle.
While AdBlock Plus was disappointed on how Facebook chose to address the users directly, Facebook is “disappointed that ad blocking companies are punishing people on Facebook as these new attempts don’t just block ads but also posts from friends and Pages.”
“This isn’t a good experience for people and we plan to address the issue. Ad blockers are a blunt instrument, which is why we’ve instead focused on building tools like ad preferences to put control in people’s hands,” a Facebook spokesperson said.
Facebook is also not a fan of AdBlock charging money from larger advertisers to whitelist ads that follow their guidelines of acceptable ads. These acceptable ads must not disrupt user experience and should be clearly distinguished from non-ad content. The second rule affects, Facebook’s sponsored posts, placed in the middle of the feed, which is most of the time native content.
While this time around “the mouse won,” Facebook is likely to win this battle in the long run says a report by Forbes. There are a high percentage of people using ad blocks, nonetheless, they aren’t super technical and just use the technology to surf internet faster and avoid irrelevant ads, these users are applying the advanced settings that would block relevant or important ads.
Should you be worried?
AdBlock’s effect on Facebook display ads and FAN isn’t that worrisome yet. Facebook and ad blockers will continue the chase until they derive a win-win solution. Nonetheless, it is the sheer rise in the number of ad block users that publishers and brands need to be concerned about. The large number is eventually bound to impact views and impressions, especially of the display ads.
It wouldn’t hurt to engage in alternative advertising techniques and be prepared for the sudden leopard attack.
One of the best ways to beat the impact of ad blockers and deal with the issue of organic reach would be to engage in native marketing techniques. Strike a direct conversation with your consumers – use mentions or direct messages from premium and active users.
Content marketing, would be an apt way to dodge ads and ad blockers. Quality content speaks for itself and has a potential of reaching the correct TG. Also, brands need to avoid broad targeting – broad parameters are likely to take your communication to audiences who find your brand irrelevant. Targetting the right niche will make your advert or content relevant, reducing its chances of getting blocked. Influencer marketing could also come to your rescue.
It is only a matter of time before Facebook returns with a block for the updated AdBlock – as this war shapes up, be prepared for some startling updates.