Facebook wants to lead the ad blocking debate now, embarking on a crackdown to overpower the tools for the first time on the platform that will also see it offer users more control over the ads they see.
Announcing the news in a blog post, the platform said that it is going to introduce technology to make it harder for people to avoid seeing marketing on Facebook.
“We’ve designed our ad formats, ad performance and controls to address the underlying reasons people have turned to ad blocking software,” said the company’s vice-president of ads and business Andrew Bosworth.
“When we asked people about why they used ad blocking software, the primary reason we heard was to stop annoying, disruptive ads. As we offer people more powerful controls, we’ll also begin showing ads on Facebook desktop for people who currently use ad blocking software.”
The stand against ad blocking comes as the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) reports that over a quarter of US internet users employ ad blocking tools on desktop. A similar report from eMarketer noted that 24 per cent of desktop and laptop users will have downloaded an ad blocking tool in the UK by the end of next year.
Bosworth said that the practice offered by some ad blocking companies to ‘white list’ ads they had previously blocked on media outlets and social networks was “at best confusing” and reduced “the funding needed to support the journalism and other free services that we enjoy on the web”.
Facebook has also introduced a raft of new preference controls for users to indicate which ads they do, or do not, want to see on their newsfeeds. Designed to combat “bad ads” the expanded toolkit will let users remove certain interest from their preferred ads list, so if someone does not want to receive updates about travel they can express that. It is also adding tools to let people stop seeing ads from businesses or organisations which have added them to their customer lists.
“Rather than paying ad blocking companies to unblock the ads we show — as some of these companies have invited us to do in the past — we’re putting control in people’s hands with our updated ad preferences and our other advertising controls,” Bosworth added.
Facebook joins a raft of publishers that are also looking for solutions to ad blocking, including Wired which recently shifted its advertising model togenerate revenue from browsers employing ad blockers.
While it is likely that Facebook’s new technology will help it generate further ad load and revenue, Bosworth told the Wall Street Journal that Facebook was doing it “more for the principle of the thing,” saying the social network wants to “lead the discussion” around the issue.
Randall Rothenberg, president and chief executive of the Interactive Advertising Bureau said: “For hundreds of years, advertising and marketing have been central to the delivery of entertainment and services that are otherwise free to consumers. In addition, advertising is essential to the functioning of democratic capitalism; it is how consumers and citizens learn about better prices, better features, better job opportunities, and even better political candidates.
“Facebook should be applauded for its leadership on preserving a vibrant value exchange with its users. Its decision to respect advertising as an essential ingredient in connecting users worldwide is spot-on, and should be replicated across the free and open Internet.”