Facebook’s attempt at tackling ad blocking is the boldest move by a technology company to date – but will it be enough?
Ads, when done well, can be engaging, moving and informative. But many people who are turned off by annoying, in-your-face ads are increasingly using ad blocking technology to voice their frustration. And while some agencies have seen the rising use of the technology as a chance for the industry to up its game and develop better creative, many businesses see ad blockers as one of the biggest threats. It seems Facebook falls in the latter camp, announcing changes to its algorithm that will effectively make ads indistinguishable from organic, non-paid content.
Facebook also plans to grant users more control over the type of ads they’re served. For instance, people can now remove interests from their preferences so brands won’t target them with related ads. They’ll also be able to prevent themselves from being shown ads from businesses that have added them to their marketing lists.
Andrew Bosworth, advertising vice president of Facebook, said the company has made the change in response to feedback from its users in order to enhance their experience. “When we asked people about why they used ad-blocking software, the primary reason we heard was to stop annoying, disruptive ads,” he said. “As we offer people more powerful controls, we'll also begin showing ads on Facebook desktop for people who currently use ad-blocking software.”
It’s no surprise that Facebook is looking to tackle the threat of ad blockers: its revenue is largely generated from advertising and the company has admitted that ad blockers have already impacted its ad revenue "from time to time”.
But not everyone in the industry is convinced Facebook has the power to stop the rise of ad blockers, however much it would like to. Ben Williams, operations manager at Eyeo GmbH, the company behind the Ad Block Plus plugin, isn’t too worried. Reacting to the news in a blog post, he said: “This is an unfortunate move because it takes a dark path against user choice. But it’s also no reason to overreact: cat-and-mouse games in tech have been around as long as spammers have tried to circumvent spam filters.”
Combined with recent changes aimed at dealing with the wave of clickbait-style headlines that can be found on the platform, Facebook is sending a sign that it wants brands to put out quality content and ads that don’t annoy its users. So while only time will tell how the changes to its platform will impact the industry, clearly quality creative is still key.