O2 joins the ad-blocking snowball

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The virtual snowball of carriers exploring the blocking of ads continues to expand with another U.K. carrier, O2, revealing that they are in the “well advanced” stages of addressing the issue. This comes on the heels of EE announcing they were looking at blocking ads at the network level or otherwise enabling their customers to better control the delivery of ads to their mobile devices. The carriers appear to be responding to reports that 10 – 50% of wireless data is being used up on advertising. This not only negatively impacts the user experience, it is putting considerable strain on the network infrastructure.

In an interview, Robert Franks, O2’s managing director of digital commerce said,

“We are absolutely looking at [network-level ad blocking] technology. We are holding ourselves to the highest standards with our own advertising. We are looking at these technologies to see if they can help our customers with some of the bad practices and disruptive experiences that are happening.

It is not in an advertisers’ interest to spam customers or do things to create a terrible experience. If the way to raise the bar is to look at these [ad blocking] technologies, whether through a mobile network, or a combination of apps and browser extensions as Apple is doing to address some of the behaviors these [ad tech] intermediaries are executing, I think that’s fine. But I don’t see it as a polarized debate between ‘do you have advertising or don’t you have advertising’.”

One of the items that O2 is trying to address, and a sign that they have gone quite a way down the road toward actual implementation, is what to do about devices switching between the carrier’s wireless network that they control and WiFi access points outside of their control. Franks indicated this issue is pushing the carrier to look at a blended approach that combines network level controls with end-user solutions.

Another challenge for O2 and other companies is trying to balance controls on intrusive advertising with the concept of an “ad-fund internet.” Franks indicates O2 has identified three main problems with the current state of mobile advertising – poor targeting, poor creative, and data heavy ads. Improving quality in these areas may help alleviate the need for controls.

At the same time that carriers are looking at ways to minimize the impact of advertising on mobile device users, others are working to try to thwart the impact of ad blockers. Yahoo Mail recently started testing technology that prevents users from accessing the platform if they have an ad-blocker extension running in their browser.

Like EE, O2 thinks part of the benefit of the discussions is the awareness this will raise regarding advertising.

source: Business Insider

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