Just when I had started to recover from the War on Christmas, it turns out there's now a War on Advertising. According to Advertising Age and just about every other digital and marketing channel out there, people just don't seem to like ads very much - especially the pesky digital ones - and are finding all sorts of clever ways to block them.
I'm working hard to muster my outrage and concern. Give me a minute.
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Is it possible that this time - seriously this time - the Kraken of ad blocking will be released? Apple seems to hint that some forthcoming iOS will usher in the demise of online ads as we know them. Or was that Mozilla? Or was the Mozilla thing about third party cookies? Crap, I'm mixing up my crises again! Shouldn't Wolf Blitzer be standing in front of a graphic telling us what to be afraid of?
Far be it from me to deny anyone a good scare, but a little perspective and a touch of distance might be good things just about now. And so....
- The original ad blockers - TiVo's and other DVR's - have been with us for a quite a while. It seems to me that the TV business just used a little research language (+3 or +5 or something) and some discounting and explained the problem away. When the cow is keeping the whole village nourished, you figure out how to keep her from getting sick.
- I might have this wrong, but aren't the most 'blockable' ads also the lowest value anyway? Aren't we talking about the pool of predictable rectangles that's already riddled with fraud, non-viewable ads, falling prices and everything but scurvy and urban decay? You want to bulldoze that neighborhood? Go for it.
- The Washington Post website recently flipped the tables and started telling people using ad blockers that they couldn't consume the content. Probably too logical of a solution for broad adoption though.
- And is this really going to be a Washington Post kind of problem, anyway? Or is it going to be one more pox on those exchanges and tech companies who are sifting through bazillions of impressions every hour? You make 10 or 20 percent of a bazillion impressions go away, pretty soon you're talking real money.
To me it all seems like a war on digital advertising's past; the stuff we've all started to outgrow. As I said in an essay I wrote for the University of Florida Journalism School's Captivate program last year, don't even call it advertising anymore. Because from this point forward, it will have to either be something much bigger and more important, or it will just be background noise.
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