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Ad Reinsertion: For Better or Worse?





By Joe Barone

“Ad reinsertion” happens when publishers use technology to serve ads to browsers that have an active ad blocking plug-in. It’s a new solution some publishers are considering to ensure delivery of ads to their sites’ visitors. GroupM is concerned by this opaque means of reaching consumers who have explicitly asked not to be advertised to in a particular environment via their choice to employ ad blockers.

As industry focus on the ad blocking problem grows, clients and their agencies are paying close attention to the testing and strategy development of publishers who are looking to reduce the financial impact of ad blocking. While isolated cases of offering ‘ad lite’ experiences seem to be gaining traction, there is a growing sense that publishers are quickly discarding the value exchange discussion with ad blocker users, as well as the notion of denial of content. Arguably, ad reinsertion is the least consumer-friendly option available.

Publishers seem to believe that users have many options for accessing content similar to that which would be subject to denial. There also appears to be a great deal of skepticism around the idea of expanding subscription models, again due to the general availability of free content users may perceive to be interchangeable with the content they are being asked to pay for.

This combination of factors is leading some publishers toward a technology arms race with consumers and their ad blockers. While ad reinsertion may appear to be the shortest path to revenue recovery for a publisher, simply beating the blocker may have short- and long-term consequences that have not been studied, and are difficult to project.

GroupM agencies are beginning to counsel clients that we should actively prohibit reinserted ad inventory from inclusion in their buys. We simply don’t know whether consumers will blame the site publisher, the advertiser, or the blocker, and we should not put advertiser brands at risk. Ignoring consumers’ ‘Do Not Advertise’ requests is a risk we are not willing to tolerate for our brands.

This practice could even be subject to scrutiny from the Advertising Self-Regulatory Committee of the Better Business Bureau (BBB), which is one step removed from FTC scrutiny.

It is a fact that leading verification providers are currently not able to detect ad reinsertion, however, development in that space is rapid and responsive to client needs. It likely won’t be long until we can enforce contract terms calling for non-payment of any impressions determined to be delivered to blocked browsers via publisher side technologies. However non-payment for reinserted ads is not enough as actual damage can occur to brands whose ads are reinserted and we would seek to ensure the practice is not implemented for our campaigns altogether.

As GroupM has advocated prior, the industry must quickly collaborate to find solutions that address the root cause of consumers’ adoption of ad blocking. There are encouraging signs that improvements in user experience can slow the growth or even reverse the trend of ad blocker adoption. Helping consumers place a value on ad exposure, through the choice of free with ads or pay without ads models can demonstrate the value exchange to a consumer and allow them to decide how much advertising is worth.

The LEAN initiative must be accelerated via adoption of quick wins like file size limits, limited and secure tags and skippable pre-roll. It’s important to improve user experience before offering a consumer the value exchange, so that we can demonstrate that we have heard the message from consumers that we advertise responsibly, or not at all.


Joe Barone
Joe Barone is Managing Partner, Digital Ad Operations for GroupM Connect North America.