Marketing March 19, 2014 Last updated September 18th, 2018 1,578 Reads share

Is Adblock Plus Killing Digital Marketing?

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I’m one of the 50 million who use Adblock Plus. Why, as a digital marketer, would I do that? Because it’s handy: it skips all ads on the likes of Youtube and monitors the ads I see across the rest of the net. Essentially, it saves time and in a society where we want our media without any kind of wait, time is of the essence. We’re an impatient species, but my day job means I understand how detrimental it is to block advertisements, especially to PPC or affiliate marketing campaigns.

How to still get seen

With more and more people installing Adblock Plus, how do we ensure our display ads are still being seen? Interaction, after all, is our currency.

Adblock Plus has a carefully policed policy of whitelisting sites, i.e. letting approved ads through the filter. This is a controversial process, as there are rumours abound that Google, Amazon, and other big names aren’t shy about paying Adblock Plus to add them to the whitelist. This has, of course, led to the allegation that it exists as a money-making racket: an online toll booth where they marshal whose ads are seen and whose aren’t—if the price is right. Adblock Plus is very much a self-appointed and self-audited warden of ‘acceptable advertising’.

But is this the truth? Adblock Plus is a small operation—though its numbers show it really has tapped into something massive.

Do we then, as digital marketers, need to reconsider our approach to Adblock Plus and its tens of millions of users?

How do we get an ad onto Adblock’s whitelist?

First up, whitelisting is free for all small websites and blogs—but payment is required when “significant effort” is required by Adblock Plus. There’s then a checklist that needs to be met to class the ad as ‘acceptable’:

1. Static ads only.

2. Preferably text only.

3. Ad placements:

  • Ads shouldn’t obscure page content.
  • Ads should not be placed into the middle of a text piece/article.
  • Ads should not require users to scroll down. Paid search results should never occupy more space than organic results.
  • Side ads should leave enough space for the main content.
  • Ads should be clearly marked as such, i.e. Adsense’s yellow background.

4. Hyperlinks:

  • Hyperlinks must not lead to any website except the one specified.
  • 2% of words or less must be hyperlinked.
  • Hyperlinks shouldn’t be formatted to behave differently to other links.
  • They shouldn’t be misleading in content or placement.

In theory, this all sounds reasonable, though reports suggest that only 10% of applicants were whitelisted—though 50% of those applicants refused to make changes to their ads. Adblock want to “make the web a better place” by ensuring that only the ‘good’ ads get through. Adblock Plus, then, is not killing advertising—it means that, as digital marketers, we have to be smarter and more considerate of internet users.

Adblock Plus want all display ads to be honest and open, and as much as they are policing advertising, they’re also ensuring that we connect more with potential leads—after all, the users who block all advertising were probably not going to be a potential sale anyway!

Images: ”Marketing concept: Digital Advertising on advertising billboard background, 3d render  /


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Lisa Sills

Lisa Sills

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