Advertising has been an essential, if sometimes annoying, part of mass media for decades. The digital age has created a lot of new ways for business owners to target consumers with ads. However, with the creation of ad blocker technology, websites and advertisers have been engaged in a battle to make sure their ads get shown. This problem even affects Facebook, but Facebook is fighting back in multiple, innovative ways.
In an announcement earlier this week, Facebook announced multiple changes to their platform to address ad blocking tools, as well as address the underlying reasons that many people want to use ad blockers in the first place.
“As more and more content has shifted to the internet, online experiences have improved dramatically, becoming more immersive and intuitive,” wrote Andrew Bosworth on Facebook’s blog. “But many digital ads haven’t kept up. We’ve all experienced a lot of bad ads: ads that obscure the content we’re trying to read, ads that slow download times or ads that try to sell us things we have no interest in buying. Bad ads are disruptive and a waste of our time.”
Facebook is using a two pronged attack to protect their ad revenue. Primarily, they are using new technology to counter the efforts of ad blockers. They are also adding several new features for Facebook users so they have more control over what ads they see when they’re on Facebook.
To be fair, Facebook would say they are more focused on creating better user experiences than they are on thwarting ad blockers. However, ad blockers are a more immediate threat since this is already costing Facebook money. Facebook plans to mask the traffic patterns they use for ad content, so it’s more difficult for ad blockers to stop ads from being shown. This means that the ad blocker would need to look at the content contextually to figure out if it’s an ad. This would be hard to do, costly to implement, and not entirely reliable, so it makes ad blocking ineffective.
This tactic of blocking ad blockers is something that other websites and ad networks will want to pay close attention to. Other solutions to the ad blocker challenge have been heavy handed or shady. Some websites won’t work at all if an ad blocker is detected (which is counterproductive because the user is more likely to bypass that site entirely than they are to remove the ad blocker).
And Google has addressed the issue by paying ad blockers to allow their ads to come through. Facebook’s low-key solution to ad blocking doesn’t inconvenience consumers and doesn’t resort to paying ransom. If this works, it’s something other ad networks will want to work on.
Another thing Facebook is doing, that will hopefully become industry standard, is give consumers more control over the kind of ads they see. Improving the ad experience will diminish the need for ad blockers. As Facebook stated earlier, when people are shown the right ads at the right time, it all works out pretty well.
Here’s how they explained their efforts, “With today’s announcement, we’re building on these efforts by making ad preferences easier to use, so you can stop seeing certain types of ads. If you don’t want to see ads about a certain interest like travel or cats, you can remove the interest from your ad preferences. We also heard that people want to be able to stop seeing ads from businesses or organizations who have added them to their customer lists, and so we are adding tools that allow people to do this.”
In the end, this is good news for the business owners and marketers who use Facebook to reach their target audiences. Ad blockers prevent messages from reaching their intended target. These changes by Facebook should ensure the platform remains useful for advertising for a while longer.
For more recent news about social media marketing, read this article on Facebook and LinkedIn plans for video content.