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Why Collaboration Is The Key To Helping Publishers Beat Ad Blockers

Ad blocking continues to be a threat to any publisher who relies on ad revenue. The use of ad blockers increased 41% last year (source: PageFair), and with data from Unruly’s Future Video Survey showing that 90% of consumers around the world would consider using ad blockers in future, it’s a problem that’s only going to get worse.

Publishers are desperately searching for a way to ease the growing problem, but are finding that there’s simply no one-size-fits-all solution.

The IAB released its Tech Lab Publisher Ad Blocking Primer back in March, which outlined the 7 tactics publishers could take in the fight against ad blocking. 

However, it fell short of providing insight into which tactics they should be implementing. In fact, many of the tactics listed are not recommendations from the IAB – or from Unruly!

Unruly has long believed the best way to tackle ad blocking – and many of the issues facing the advertising industry – is through a collaborative approach between brands, publishers and consumers.

French online publishing trade body Geste recently took this challenge head on in one of the best examples of how collaboration across companies can lead to real results.

Leading the charge for the publishers were Le Monde, Le Figaro, RTE, Le Parisien, L’Equipe and music platform Deezer, who each implemented their own tactics to dealing with the new threat to see which was the most successful.

“We wanted a collective movement with many publishers, but we decided we couldn’t have only one solution for us all,” said Bertrand Gié, head of digital at Le Figaro and vice president of Le Geste.

Approaches ranged from blocking content altogether and showing messages about how editorial content needs ad revenue to survive to asking visitors for micro payments.

But what were the results? Well, let’s take a look:  

  • L’Equipe blocked content unless users disabled their ad blockers or added the site to their whitelist – 40% did so. As Digiday noted, L’Equipe’s focus on sports means that it has “a clear value add”, which is always likely to be more successful when asking people to whitelist a site;
  • Le Figaro only managed to get 20% of ad blocking visitors to whitelist, thanks to its tactic of allowing the ad blockers to access articles initially and then progressively blurring out content as they continued clicking through. As noted in Digiday, Le Figaro will begin testing other messages such as incentivizing readers with a week of premium content to whitelist or take down their ad blocker;
  • Le Monde took a less aggressive approach with a pop-up explaining to visitors using ad blockers that their site was funded by advertising. The plea to help fund a journalist’s salary only persuaded 13% of users to add the site to their whitelist.

So why should anyone outside of France care about this? We’ve seen a plethora of publishers test their own ad blocking solutions. Wired is currently experimenting with an ad-free version, the New York Times is testing limited access for ad blockers, and Forbes has been blocking ad-block users since December.

What’s special about Geste’s approach is that the publishing trade group is helping to break down silos, share results, iterate and try again. Collaboration is the key in fighting against ad blockers, and not just among publishers. The entire industry – from brands to publishers to ad tech companies – need to work together to create engaging advertising experiences that viewers will want to watch and share.

As Gié points out, “90% of our income is from advertising. We have to try everything to fight this problem.” Change is constant. The world is uncertain. Being agile is not optional.