News & Views
Blocking the ad blockers

Facebook announced this week that it will be showing ads to all desktop users; even those who employ ad blockers. The decision is put forward as one that will actually empower consumers, by giving them greater choice over what they do and don’t see on the platform.

“We’ve designed our ad formats, ad performance and controls to address the underlying reasons people have turned to ad blocking software,” says Andrew Bosworth, VP of Adverts & Business at Facebook, who goes on to say that most users cite “annoying, disruptive ads” as the primary factor behind their choice to adopt ad blockers.

FB-AdbLock_block_ogilvydoA number of publishers have taken similar stands against ad blocking, including Bloomberg, Forbes, Wired, and the Washington Post.

While repetitive and intrusive ads have driven more people to ad blockers, Bosworth maintains that there is still value in advertising that connects individuals with products and services they genuinely want or need. “These improvements are designed to give people even more control over how their data informs the ads they see,” he says. “We believe that these expanded controls give people a better experience with advertising on and off Facebook.”

Facebook and Google currently share 64 per cent of the digital advertising market. But while Facebook is finding ways to bypass desktop blockers, Google is working with them, partnering with Adblock Plus on its “acceptable ads” programme.

There has already been pushback against Facebook’s announcement; Adblock Plus calls it “an unfortunate move,” and has stated that the company is taking “a dark path against user choice.” However, there are also those who criticise the allegedly shady practices of companies like Adblock Plus, who will serve up ads they have previously blocked in exchange for payment. Culture Secretary John Whittingdale has described such organisations as perpetrators of a “modern day protection racket.”

Bosworth believes that this is unsustainable and ultimately damaging to the quality of content and user experience. “Ads support our mission of giving people the power to share and making the world more open and connected. 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,” he says.

Facebook’s ad revenue reached $5.2 billion in Q1 of this year. The vast majority of that came from mobile ads, which are more lucrative and harder to block.

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