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Should digital marketers be wary of Apple's new ad blocker?

14-September-2015
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Should digital marketers be wary of Apple's new ad blocker?

Apple’s announcement last week about its new products was an exciting time for Apple’s legion of fans. However, among the announcements was something that caused quite a few heads to turn in the digital advertising industry. Apple said that the new iOS 9 update would allow users to install ad blocking extensions from the app store to enjoy an ad free mobile browsing experience on Safari. However, this will not be a default setting.

This has caused some publishers to question the likely impact on digital ads and what it means for the future if the feature is picked up by other platforms like Android.

Safari accounts for a pretty fair share of the market. According to the website Apple Insider,  Safari (mobile)represents 52 per cent of the mobile browsing market (and 14% of total web browsing). The new ad blocking update on iOS 9 is expected to reach acceptance levels as high as 16 per cent, said the website.

Globally, around 20 per cent of ad impressions come from Safari, Abhay Doshi, VP (Product Management & Marketing) of Flytxt, informed us, while in India, the number is less than 10 per cent.

When asked about the likely impact of the new feature on digital advertising, he said, “I doubt it will have any impact in near future as ad blocking has been available for long time with limited success. Publisher and ad networks will find better ways to insert their ads. Publishers are content owners and owner of business model of free distribution of their content. No aggregators should tamper with their rights. It could have significant repercussions if top publishers join hands and stop optimizing their content for the Safari browser as Apple cannot replace publisher.”

However, there are still those who feel that ad blockers could have a negative impact on business. For example, a report by Affle, says that publishers are likely to lose $21,8 billion in 2015 and this figure might almost double to more than $41 billion by 2016 due to ad blockers. And it is just not display ads which are within the ambit of ad blockers. For example, Purify, one of the new ad blockers available on iOS 9 will also block native ads.

However, there is also a flipside to the issue. For one, the new update does not include in-app advertising so it might actually cause brands to move towards this format and other options like Facebook advertising, etc. “From what we have seen on our network of 30 million urban Indians, iOS contributes to about 10 per cent. So the impact will be miniscule. Ad blockers will largely bring more discipline to the mobile ad industry with improving mobile ad experience for users and making better and more beautiful ads,” opined Lavin Punjabi, President at Affinity.

The fact remains that ad blockers remain quite a valid threat to publishers the world over. According to a 2015 report by PageFair, use of ad blockers grew by 41 per cent over the last 12 months and there are currently 198 million active adblock users globally. With a major technology company like Apple also extending its support to ad blockers, publishers and digital advertisers now need to put some effort in figuring out new and less intrusive ways of reaching their audience.

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