Ads don’t cry

We had a much-needed conversation about the ads’ role in an era of adblockers, first-party data hunting, and data-collection consent with Rotem Dar, Director of Media Operations at eyeo. Rotem gives us a fresh point of view of the future of programmatic advertising, both for advertisers and publishers.
We asked Rotem to tell us about AdBlock Plus, how he still believes in the advertising world, how protecting the privacy of people factors in, and the different angles from which we have to look at ad blocking.

Here is what he thinks about these different topics:

“The difference between AdBlock Plus and AdBlock and other ad blockers in the market is a very programmatic approach that we have towards advertising, out of the belief that the free web needs advertising, at least on a large scale. And for something like 90% of the user base in order to sustain and actually have a doable business model in which users browse the website and don’t have to pay for them. […] We are not saying that there are no other models that can’t coexist alongside advertising, but advertising for the vast majority of the users should remain the main way of monetizing content.
[…] the idea was to try to find a sustainable model for the web that on one hand, ensures user rights and user choice. But on the other, try to put a new model that enables content to keep being generated […] And that’s how the acceptable ads program came to life. It’s basically what you can refer to as a sort of like an Ad light. But it’s a result of a lot of research that we’ve done for the users’ expectations alike. And what sort of user behavior and user experience should actually, on one end, allow us to keep browsing the web with ads. But on the other, also make ads still effective and meaningful for the advertiser.
[…] it became unbearable to browse the web, at least on many websites. At this point in time, we’re already experiencing a shift back to a better user experience, I think, as a result of the ad blocking phenomenon. So like us or hate us, it’s definitely nicer to browse the web nowadays as a result of that.
[…] The acceptable standards are basically being defined not by us but by an external committee. That is independent and we have to follow the guidelines. What they try to do is to go back to the basic expectations of the user of how do I browse the website and focus on content? While ads are something that exists and is there, but it’s not taking the main spot of the website. […] It’s up to 15% above the fold and up to 25 below the fold on desktop. No animation, no sounds, nothing that can be misleading. You would find the typical standard sort of formats, but just without the animations, and not too many flashy colors, I would say it’s a more straightforward approach on how to engage with the user, at least when the user actually gives the signal that they’re interested in this sort of user experience.
[…] Our products are built in a way that enables third parties to recognize the situation where a user is browsing, and also have acceptable ads as one of the features. In this sort of way, publishers can select to address this audience in a different way, in comparison to the general audience. So once the user has made a choice to browse the web, and engage with ads, with these guidelines, then the publisher can instruct its ad tech providers to set up a UX that fits these guidelines.
[…] If you look at the personas or the demographics of users who nowadays use ad blocking, and consider that the vast majority of them are engaged with ads, with acceptable ads. Reaching these sorts of users requires you to think out of the box and figure out in what places they actually pop up.
[…] Regarding the pricing of it. It’s cheaper than it should be. The reason for that is just that, up until now, this piece didn’t really support this format. I mean, we’re still dealing with a world in which ad formats tend to be with animation. And there was no specific targeting functionality for acceptable ads, it was partially ignored by the industry. But that changes. And still, in comparison to the general audience, the pricing is attractive at the moment, at least for the time being. We work constantly on facilitating to the market this kind of audience. We started by opening an SSP that was designated specifically for this kind of audience working directly with publishers and there are also other SSPs that work with eyeo and facilitate the same service. And now we are on the way to initiating our new DSP. […] that would also facilitate for brands, and for agencies that work with the acceptable ad’s audience. And that’s the next step we take in order to make it more achievable for marketers. I would assume it’s like double digits, percentage-wise cheaper than the general audience. So not half the price, but probably somewhere on the 30 – 40% less. My assumption based on different indications.
[…] We are now living in an age of transition when it comes to data. Cookies don’t exist anymore. Neither in Safari or Firefox and soon in Chrome and we are very attentive to privacy sandbox and whatever the market would move to and whatever adoption Google tries to pull off. I’m very invested in the topic because I’m also the lead of our data product, which is basically from a user perspective, that’s a privacy protection product that’s supposed to allow users to have better protection from different practices like fingerprinting and others. But essentially, trying to make a more straightforward approach that fulfills the spirit of GDPR. This means that a user has good transparency and control over the data that they share, but that there is some sort of value exchange. So on one hand, you control the sort of exposure of your personal data while we anonymize the data. […] But on the other end, the idea is that the content that you consume has a price and needs to be funded in some way. So this is our take on the private web and on how data should be managed by users and is also utilized by third parties.
[…] So there are a lot of use cases that we can think of for the future, that it’s still not 100% clear how they will be facilitated with the new technologies in the browsers, but also how code will decide to interpret a GDPR is still work in progress. […] But the market is changing. We are attentive to those changes and try to empower users with tools that basically allow them to fulfill their privacy rights, which is, in my opinion, very important in the year 2021. But besides that, also to educate audiences about the importance of the value exchange. So on one hand, introducing the user into the web economy in the sense of putting the user in a place where they can impact the way that they’re being addressed. But on the other end, constituting the fact that they need to be addressed.
[…] If there are users who prefer to pay directly for content, we’re done for it. For the vast majority, ad, of course, is the main route for web monetization. […] And that’s exactly the philosophy behind our products, trying to provide some control to users of what is acceptable and what they can do, basically, what would not alienate them and make them try to fight with the system as a whole. So this is like the middle way that on one hand, let you as an individual set up some basic rules about how to engage with you. But on the other, maintain the sustainable web.
[…] this new trend of privacy actually shifts the balance in the market a little bit more towards the publishers in comparison to the past. Because if you think about it, publishers now have a little bit more leverage, because of the advantages that these changes give to first-party data. I think there’s also some sense in it. I mean, as a user once you share your data with a publisher, you don’t envision it. I mean, being shared with up to 1000s of other third parties, but you can definitely feel a little bit more association with the first-party contacts, with the publisher that you visit. […] I’m just saying from the point of view of the user and perception and research that we’ve done on what the legitimate expectations of users are when browsing. So publishers were between the cracks for many years, when data was kind of like the Wild West and was arbitrage by others. So that gives them a little bit more control. On the other end, I’m a little bit concerned about these changes, because it gives a lot of leverage to bigger organizations, for larger publishers, which gonna probably cause some consolidation in the publishing world and make it harder for new policies to pop up and start generating new content.
[…] I hope that we will be successful with our mission of helping publishers to benefit also from larger board concept contextuality. But getting back, of course, the smaller you are the less information you got about the user preferences and user interest. So of course that’s one of the risks that the industry is taking. With this shift to a more private experience is that there will be a major consolidation because smaller publishers would want to benefit from more diverse data about users. If you have very unique content and high-quality information that you spread, then of course it’s a different game.

[…] If you are a marketer, I want you to get your head out of the Excel sheets, get your head out of the CRMs. And try to use some common sense and think what kind of experience your users actually want. Try to envision where you really want to engage with the users, and how you can humanize the system in a way that you approach people in the same way you expect for yourself or you expect your preferred customers to be engaged. And I think that would also help us to build a better web in which users are not being alienated and are just more humanized. And I think that would also have great business results. Because at the end of the day, there is a reason how we got so far, where users are looking for different sorts of protections to engage the web. The more we’ll work toward what users expect, the more sustainable systems we will manage to build together.

Edited for clarity.

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