Facebook Blocks the Ad Blockers, Refuses to Pay Ransom

Rich OrdAdvertising

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Facebook is using technology to blend ads into their HTML, making ads indistinguishable to their content in order to prevent ad blocking. This only works when viewing the full HTML version of Facebook, not their mobile version or their mobile app.

In a rather soft sell approach, they mixed adding more intuitive and granular controls for Facebook users with the very bold step of blocking the ad blockers. Facebook is actually changing how ads appear in the code, giving ad blockers nothing to block.

"First, we’re expanding the tools we give people to control their advertising experience," Andrew Bosworth, VP, Ads & Business Platform for Facebook announced. "Second, we’re providing an update on our approach to ad blocking on Facebook. As we offer people more powerful controls, we’ll also begin showing ads on Facebook desktop for people who currently use ad blocking software."

Many users of ad blocking software may not be happy that ads are now appearing, but Facebook is counting on their new Ad Preference controls combined with their typically more relevant ads to counter this sentiment. After all, Facebook has an immense database on everything we do and say on their platform, they ought to be able to serve ads that appeal to our interests.

"For the past few years at Facebook we’ve worked to better understand people’s concerns with online ads," says Bosworth. "What we’ve heard is that people don’t like to see ads that are irrelevant to them or that disrupt or break their experience. People also want to have control over the kinds of ads they see." He says that Facebook ads "complement, rather than detract" from your online experience.

Facebook Refuses to Pay Ransom

"Some ad blocking companies accept money in exchange for showing ads that they previously blocked — a practice that is at best confusing to people and that reduces the funding needed to support the journalism and other free services that we enjoy on the web," said Bosworth in slamming ad blocking extortionists. "Facebook is one of those free services, and ads support our mission of giving people the power to share and making the world more open and connected."

One bit of news, Facebook has actually been approached by ad blocking companies according to Bosworth to pay what some consider a ransom in exchange for not blocking users who have installed their ad blocking software. "Rather than paying ad blocking companies to unblock the ads we show — as some of these companies have invited us to do in the past — we’re putting control in people’s hands with our updated ad preferences and our other advertising controls."

"The truth is that adblocking is really a bunch of profiteers that are holding our industry for ransom," explained Anna Hickey, Managing Director Maxus UK at the 2016 Shift conference. "What's actually going on is they are going into our publishers and demanding a significant proportion of their revenues in order to be included in a white list."

Finally, a major publishing platform is fighting back and this just may turn the tide against these ad blocking profiteers.

How Facebook is Blocking Ad Blockers

Unlike most publishers who rely on third-party ad serving companies where the ad code is relatively easy to identify and thus block, Facebook controls the serving of ads. It is making changes to its code so that its ads are indistinguishable between its other content. Facebook is able to bypass the ad blockers because they are doing everything in house. The content and ads get served at the same time and wrapped in the same tags so ad blockers don't have a chance to filter them out.

It must have faced technical challenges because otherwise it would have done this much earlier.

For smaller publishers, there are a new batch of companies that have risen up to help them block the blockers. They include Secret Media, PageFair, Admiral, BlockAdblock, Yavli and Sourcepoint. Some of these companies have raised millions of dollars in the venture markets.

Facebooks adds Granular Ad Controls for Users

Using the carrot and stick approach, Facebook also announced more granular ad controls for users. They have improved Ad Preferences so that users can select not to view certain types of ads or ads from specific businesses.

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"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," says Bosworth. "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."

"These improvements are designed to give people even more control over how their data informs the ads they see," he added.

Adblocking is a Serious Issue

Adblocking blocks 26% of all ads according to a recent IAB Report, and Facebook is a member of the IAB. However, over 41% of Millennials are blocking ads and those are the majority of Facebook users.

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I hate the ad-block profiteers," Randall Rothenberg told the audience at the opening keynote of the 2016 IAB Annual Leadership Meeting. Rothenberg is President & CEO at Interactive Advertising Bureau.

"The ad-block profiteers are building for-profit companies whose business models are premised on impeding the movement of commercial, political, and public-service communication between and among producers and consumers," says Rothenberg. "They offer to lift their toll gates for those wealthy enough to pay them off, or who submit to their demands that they constrict their freedom of speech to fit the shackles of their revenue schemes."

For more information on the state of ad blockers and how publishers are fighting back, read the report, Ad-pocalypse Now? I Think Not!

Rich Ord