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Todd Sheppard
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USATT

Ad blocking: A self-inflicted wound by advertisers who continue to abuse web visitors

Screen Shot 2015-10-01 at 9.30.39 AM

Right-click image to enlarge. Source: Adobe/Pagefair 2015 report

Ad blocking software has been prominent in the news recently as highlighted by a recent New York Times article: The cost of mobile ads. You may also scroll down for a list of other recent articles.

Apple’s inclusion of its own ad blocking app included in the most recent release of iOS 9 has also highlighted the issue. (Can Publishers Stop the Ad Blocking Wave?Can Publishers Stop the Ad Blocking Wave?).

Marketers and advertisers shriek and whine

While advertisers are shrieking (and some have even sued ad blockers … and lost), software to block offensive advertising is a direct result of increasingly abusive, intrusive, time-wasting, battery-sucking practices developed by marketers and advertisers.

In other words, ad blockers are a self-inflicted wound resulting from the abuse of web users.

Violating the uneasy “social contract”

Web surfers have never liked advertisements.

However, most have been tolerant of ads (in the past) because users recognize that ads are what support “free” content.

In other words, content really isn’t free. It must have ads … or have a paywall … or go away.

But advertisers and marketers have gone too far. They have violated that social contract.

Slow, privacy-invading, twitching, blinking, loud, auto-running video and other douchbaggery have made ad blockers necessary for web surfer sanity and survival.

WII has tried for years to bring these problems to our readers’ attention

Wine Industry Insight has written about this frequently over the past years. These are a few.

In fact, everything in those WII links above has been incorporated in a Change.org manifesto supported by AdBlocker and other organizations.

AdBlocker’s Acceptable Ads Manifesto

I hate, loathe, detest abusive advertising just as much as AdBlocker and other acceptable ad campaigners do.

In fact, I have signed their Acceptable Ads manifesto which neatly embraces the Wine Industry Insight Terms of Advertising Service that we have used for years.

The manifesto states:

(1) Acceptable Ads are not annoying

People don’t need to be tricked into clicking. Advertising can rise above the noise by being useful – and even tasteful. The blinking and jiggling just annoys the real buyers, which means the people who do click did it either out of curiosity or because they are an unsupervised 6-year-old. Either way, an intrusive ad is not going to generate a sale – and it might just get you some negative press and ill will.

(2) Acceptable Ads do not disrupt or distort page content

Users can very well become interested in an ad, but advertising is not the reason one visits a website. You visit a site for its content, and therefore the page should not be sullied by ads that disrupt or obscure that content without permission – pop-ups and pop-unders, pre-roll video ads and the like. When ad placement and structure are done well, they may actually inspire you to explore more without resorting to nasty tricks.

3) Acceptable Ads do not disrupt or distort the page content we’re trying to read.

(4) Acceptable Ads are transparent with us about being an ad.

(5) Acceptable Ads are effective without shouting at us.

(6) Acceptable Ads are appropriate to the site that we are on.

The six points above are a summary. Click here for the entire Acceptable Ads manifesto.

The Golden Rule

As the publisher of two digital publications I  have always thought that the “Golden Rule” must be followed, or I become a hypocrite.

That’s why Wine Industry Insight (http://wineindustryinsight.com) and my new site, Craft Beverage Insights (http://craftbeverageinsights.com) have never accepted pop-up or pop-under ads, Flash of any sort, ads that take control of a browser, block content, or those that twitch, blink or annoy.

We no longer accept even the least-offensive animations.

In the past, I put strict limits on those: .gif or .png, no more than three images in the series, a minimum of two seconds for an image change and a minimum of four seconds that an image could be displayed before it changed. and a maximum of two cycles before the image stopped.

Our advertising Terms of Service require that ads cannot exceed 150K.

Every advertisement is clearly labeled as such.

I do have quite a few ads. I wouldn’t mind having fewer of them. But that means I would have to charge more which would price smaller advertisers out.

Privacy: The #1 reason for using an ad blocker

People hate, hate, hate having their privacy invaded and their clicks recorded and tracked.

Screen Shot 2015-10-01 at 9.39.00 AM

Right-click image to enlarge. Source: Adobe/Pagefair 2015 report

Tracking cookies and other privacy-invading practices — including those those slick emailer services are total favorites among marketers.

We don’t allow them and we don’t use them because we believe it’s nobody’s business but our own where we surf, what we watch or whether we open your damned email.

We practice what we preach. But because we cannot control those practices by third parties, we do not use central ad servers or email services with privacy-invading trackers. Ad servers also tend to serve ads that are out of context and not geared specifically to my trade visitors.

Consumer-friendly comes at a cost

Yes, we have lost a lot of potential advertisers because we refuse to load up our sites and emails with garish and horrendous ads that invade privacy. That has cost dearly, but our readers and out visitors come first … and we treat them as we want to be treated.

If you think abusive ads should go away, then go on record and sign the Acceptable Ads manifesto at Change.org.

Recent media links about abusive ads and ad blockers.

Adblock Plus Talks Content-Blocking And The Tricky Shift To Mobile

Ad Blockers and the Nuisance at the Heart of the Modern Web

Small Publishers Are Most Affected by Ad Blockers, Says IAB