Adblock Adds Insult to Injury with New Campaign
Last week Adblock, a popular adblocking extension, announced the launch of a crowdfunding campaign to help finance internet ads. You didn’t misunderstand: Adblockers are asking for our help to purchase online advertisements. The extension that vows to fight the online ad industry is now using the same system to spread their message. Adblock acknowledges that the plan is slightly unusual, while others have commented that it’s just plain hypocritical.
The Irony of Using Ads To Get Rid of Ads
The irony is astounding: Adblock is using the online advertising model to reach more users, while simultaneously destroying that very same model. “We’re going to use ads to get rid of ads”, states the video on their campaign page, a statement that has sparked harsh comparisons on social media.
While adblocking continues to gain popularity as a topic of conversation, Adblock is rapidly gaining supporters; they’ve already doubled their donation target in just over a week. Yet rather than devising a plan to help solve the problem they feel exists, Adblock has decided to use that money to try and bring down the online advertising model that they themselves are now using, with apparent disregard for the future of a free internet.
There are still many questions to be answered. Will websites even sell them ad space to begin with? With adblocking rates on the rise, any site that sells ad space to this campaign for ad revenue would ultimately be aiding its own downfall. Will these ads appear to users of the competitor adblocking plugin Adblock Plus under its acceptable advertising guidelines?
There is also a question of propriety. Adblock’s founder, Michael Gundlach, has described how he quit his job to pursue working on Adblock full time. To finance himself users are prompted to donate after installing, with $35 the suggested amount. This crowdfunding campaign will essentially use other people’s money to increase users, and in turn, his own donations.
Is This the Best Way To Reach Their Audience?
If donations to the crowdfunding campaign reach $50,000, Adblock plans to rent a billboard in Times Square; alongside some of the most expensive ad space in the world. $50,000 would buy them roughly 1 week of advertising space. For an organization that claims they want to move away from noisy and intrusive ads to choose Times Square, one of the most ad-dense locations in the world, to represent their brand greatly fuels the irony.
This plan is also quite bizarre: the vast majority of Adblock’s target market is best reached via online ads. With the money they plan to use for Times Square billboards they could grow their online advertising campaign significantly, while targetting a much more specific audience with their message. This perversely highlights the value that online advertising provides for advertisers: for a lot of (in particular online) businesses it is not just the best but the only way for them to advertise their products and services.
The First Rule of Adblocking: Don’t Talk About…
Sites that have written about the campaign acknowledge the risk they run by spreading the message, but hope their high quality content will persuade their users not to block their ads. Others have started a petition in protest to disable adblocking software on Youtube, claiming that adblocking “prevents content creators from doing what they love”.
Even AdBlock Plus, by far the leading adblocking software, can’t decide if the plan is creative or stupid. Which begs the question: if even those working to put an end to online advertising can’t seem to agree on the proper way to do so, what fate awaits the free internet as we know it?
“We can reshape the whole web — it’s just a matter of spreading the word”, claims Adblock. It seems that the campaign, while ambitious, has not taken into consideration the long term effects of their actions. “7 out of 10 internet users don’t even realize that an ad-free internet exists”, claims Adblock’s promo video. While the internet can be ad-free, it cannot be free. Ad revenue is currently the backbone of the internet. You can shut down the ads, but content will have to be funded somehow. We, as users, will pay one way or another.