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How Apple’s iOS 9 ad blocker will affect publishers

The Safari browser in Apple’s latest OS,  iOS 9 will come with a content blocker, which can stop images, scripts and other content from loading. It will block advertisements, cookies and pop-ups, disable tracking scripts and malware domains. A September 2014 report from PageFair and Adobe places the number of ad-block users around 200 million worldwide. The increase is even more pronounced on the Mac, with the number of Safari users running ad blocking extensions rising 71 per cent to 9 million.

There are number of benefits for the user which includes user privacy protection, reduce data usage and therefore preserve up to 20 per cent of the battery life, improves page load time. The new iOS 9 webview, which can be used in many third-party apps, like Twitter and Facebook, would make external links faster to load. Safari in iOS 9 will, however include a feature that lets you long-press on the reload button to load the site again without the content blocker running.

The change however will costs publishers (most of whom rely on conventional metrics like CPM or CTR) more than $20 billion per year. Content blocking in iOS 9 is going to spoil the fun for way more than just ads. These new applications, which are mostly used to block ads, block JavaScript code from loading on websites based on a list that specifies which sources are disallowed. Google Analytics is widely used by both large and small companies to measure site traffic and learn more about the type of people visiting — with iOS 9 content blockers, it may become a lot harder to get a real picture of how many visitors are truly browsing a website or learn where they came from. Optimisely, a tool used by companies to perform so-called ‘A/B testing,’ a method where a percentage of users are selected to see a tweaked version of a site to see if proposed changes perform better, also no longer works when a content blocker is installed. There could be many other tools and platforms which stop working when a content blocker is being used by the viewer.

The publishers will likely have to start leaning even more toward different types of advertisements that aren’t as easily stopped – like native ads, IP based targeting etc. Publishers will be driven to Apple’s forthcoming News app arriving in iOS 9, where Apple can generate revenue via its own advertising system, iAd. A Nieman Lab report noted that Apple’s News app will rely on iAd, an OS-level ad platform that can’t be vanquished or bypassed with ad-block software. Publishers who see declining mobile ad revenue might be persuaded to sign on with the News app, where Apple will take a 30 per cent cut of ads that iAd sells on behalf of the publisher.

My advise to brand and digital marketers would be to start experimenting with native ads, focus on customer generated content campaigns and find more innovative ways to reach customers. The digital eco-system is evolving very rapidly and the only way to stay afloat and ahead is respond rapidly to developments.

Apurva Chamaria

Apurva Chamaria heads global Brand & Digital Marketing for HCL Technologies (HCLT), a USD 6.5 Bn IT company and is responsible for brand marketing, employer brand, employee marketing, thought-leadership marketing , proposition development and marketing and digital marketing. Under his leadership HCLT debuted at InterBrand Top 100 Indian Brands at No. 19 and grew 35% y-o-y on brand value and in the Brand Finance Global 500 2015 at No. 497 with a brand value of USD 3.1 Bn. In the last 2 years the HCLT campaigns have won 40 prestigious global and regional brand and marketing awards. This 10 years at HCLT, he’s performed various roles including being CEO’s Vineet Nayar's EA, Sales Director at HCL America driving business development and leading Marketing and Strategy for Enterprise Applications Business.