3 years ago, ad blockers  were not a threat in Asia but they have quickly become commonplace in the region. According to GlobalWebIndex, 43% of the internet population use an ad blocker globally with APAC leading at 47%. At a recent IAB SEA+India Programmatic Committee, we discussed ad blocking, asking specifically who is responsible for the current state of the industry and the rise of ad blockers. If every aspect of the industry is affected by ad blocking, then it is safe to say that everyone is responsible for the current state of digital advertising. 

For publishers, the desire to improve revenue means publishers have created high impact ad formats that attract attention and are easy to sell to agencies, but at the expense of the user experience. By eradicating pop-ups and over the page ad units, new benchmarks of success need to be defined that best align with the customer experience as well as overall business impact. While major publishers are expected to increase their focus on more immersive rich media formats and develop further their branded content strategy, the question remains on how smaller players will be able to adapt to this change. 

For brands and agencies, the unhealthy obsession with vanity media metrics such as click-through-rate (CTR) is spurring on the use of intrusive ad formats by brands and agencies alike, regardless of the user experience. Stronger emphasis on the true value of a click, alternative creative formats that deliver a high impact on consumers, and new measures are required in order to educate brands around the user experience of digital advertising. 

For consumers, a lack of education around advertising funded content, means consumers are opting for ad blockers without considering that their content is only made available because advertisers pay for it to be so. Without ads, there is no content, unless consumers are willing to pay for access to it.

For ad tech companies, new technology providers have come into existence to monitor the viewability and ad verification of digital advertising which creates new vanity metrics to measure success. Ad blockers have also come into existence which have fuelled the desire for improved customer experience, however have controversially been selling consumer data and making commercial gains within the digital advertising industry. 

It has to be said that there is concern around regulatory effects on innovation in the industry, however with stricter guidelines, perhaps this creates a greater opportunity to be innovative with the digital experience of a brand, moving away from traditional advertising and more towards digital activation.

There is a shared sentiment that new players will enter the industry and smaller publishers may suffer in the short term if they do not act fast enough.  Proposed solutions are likely to reduce the size of available inventory by blocking sites that do not meet guidelines, which could have effects on pricing. If the whole industry is responsible for the current state of play, it stands to reason that it will take an industry-wide effort to properly address the problem. 

This piece was written by IAB Southeast Asia and India (IAB SEA+India) Programmatic Committee Members Pierre-Yves Riou, Assistant VP Yield Management & Marketing, MediaCorp, and Rebecca Haly, Senior Manager, High Touch Customer Success at Datorama.