Why ad blockers are good for the ad industry

For centuries, advertisers have deployed the same basic ad strategy of delivering mass appeal messages to as broad an audience as possible, as often as possible. And while the channels and technology available to reach and engage targeted audiences have grown exponentially over the years, advertisers have largely remained on the sidelines of innovation.

As consumer frustrations mount over the current state of digital advertising, leading millions to download ad-blocking technology, the time for change is now. This is one of the most consequential issues that the advertising and publishing industries have ever faced — and it's long overdue. There is no doubt an opportunity for the industry to come together.

Mobile phone frustrated
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With so much at stake, it is easy to see why some are tempted to develop technological workarounds that ignore the underlying issues that gave rise to ad blockers in the first place. Smart players, however, are radically rethinking how brands will reach, engage and persuade consumers in the future and on how content creators will reconnect the advertising experience to the user in a seamless way.

Rather than trying to fit the advertising experience that has ruled for centuries into a device that fits into your pocket, brands and content creators must shift their strategy to embrace value-driven engagement that understands and addresses individual consumer needs while respecting their content experience is now fundamentally changing – in real time.

An overwhelming majority — 73 percent of consumers — say they are more likely to engage with online advertisements when the ads are personally relevant, according to an August 2015 survey from Rubicon Project. They want brand information at their fingertips that makes their lives easier and addresses their immediate needs. They also want it done in a way that respects their user experience in a manner that is additive to the over all content experience.

In short, users are asking for an improved ad experience that is less intrusive and more relevant to their daily lives.

This is the opportunity facing the advertising sector and the global publishing and application developer communities: to bring advertising into the 21st century by empowering the user with greater control of their brand engagement while engineering a seamless and inviting user experience.

An ad blocker that robs the lifeblood of a truly free Internet, while at the same time charges the largest publishers a tax to allow ads to be delivered without user consent or control, is not the solution.

Simply put, the current connected consumer's frustration with digital advertising is not a problem that is fixed with an ad blocker. This is an opportunity to be embraced; users expect some form of value exchange for the incredible content they have at their fingertips. The next move belongs to the advertisers, content creators and advertising technology leaders who must come together to deliver a better ad experience for consumers. The alternative? Keep doing what we've been doing for years and watch the online advertising industry cede its prominent role fueling the growth of the incredible universe of content and free expression it currently supports.

Commentary by Gregory R. Raifman, a founding Board Member of the Advertising Industry's Trustworthy Accountability Group and the president of Rubicon Project, a leading advertising technology company. Follow him on Twitter @gregraifman