The solution to ad blocking. It´s about time.

Until recently, ad blocking had been growing at a 40% YoY rate. The first 200MM users had been mostly early adopters, who patiently endured the limited performance and rather complex setting procedures of the early versions. Recently, PageFair informed us there already are almost half a billion persons (419MM) who are actively blocking ads, growing at a 90% rate. And still, this growth is about to enter a new phase. Once telco carriers start protecting their assets –see Three UK on next June 13th for the first European trial-, growth will likely come at warp speed. Mainstream users may not even fully understand the issue at hand, but they´ll certainly be game to the incremental speed and savings this new service from their trusted carrier will bring them.

Clearly, telecommunication carriers do have an incentive to follow suit. Their most precious assets –their capex intensive networks and their clients- are under siege. With 95%+ of their revenues coming from advertising, OTTs can afford to give away voice and data services. Not only launching a torpedo below the carrier´s floating line, but dancing (jumping, rather) on their deck to ensure quick sinking. Ad-tech delays the loading of pages by approximately 60%, and takes away an estimated 20% of customer credit for data. Apple blogger John Grubber recently documented how a 537-word post on iMore, which should have had a size of 140KB, ballooned into a 14MB file, which The Guardian´s Felix Salmon likes to “the equivalent to 10 times the combined length of the new and old testaments” (courtesy of unwanted ad-tech). And whom do customers hold responsible for increasingly slow and expensive service? Yes, I can see the point in Three´s approach. And, likely, other carriers will too.

So, if you are a brand (or an agency working for brands), and your consumers spend more time on their mobile than on any other screen, yet you are increasingly prevented from showing them your ads, what options do you have?

Several. Yet limited. Native advertising is at best a risky business. I won´t go into the complexities of recurrent story finding –as if story telling wasn’t enough! I´ll simply remind us of the straightforward warning issued by FTC commissioner Mary Engle on June 3rd 2015: publishers may be held legally responsible for any misleading advertisement. Separation of church & state, remember?

As for brands, be aware of the potential boomerang effect. “Don’t fool them” is the advice heard from many opinion leaders. Or fear the consequences on your reputation, I would add.

Don´t take comfort on those walled gardens, either. On its April Interaction report, GroupM says: “The last fortress against ad blocking is the mobile app ecosystem, but it would be unwise to assume that this is a permanent redoubt. Today this security is created by the inability of third parties to insert the necessary code into any given application, but betting against the ingenuity of those who seek to change that seems risky at best.”

It might be time to take a moment and think how did we get here in the first place (and importantly, why).

Digital advertising promised performance accuracy that would bring tears of joy to Johnny Wannamaker’s face. Instead, the industry settled for viewability standards to actually make a full grown marketer cry: “Desktop display ads to be considered viewable if 50% of their pixels are in view for a minimum of one second; for desktop video that standard is 50% for 2 seconds”, IAB says. I have been in the business for 23 years. I have been both on the client and agency side. And I´ll invite anyone to please share with me how can any significant A&P be built for any brand or product following those standards.

Just for fun, here is what they look like (say “One Mississippi”, then close your eyes).

Now for the video. This demo is interactive. Grab a piece of paper and cover 50% of the screen below. Now play.

The consequence of those viewability standards has been CTRs well below 1%. Lack of performance has driven prices down- enter here the list of publishers running out of business because they simply cannot make a living with current CPMs. To compensate both lack of performance and diminishing prices, absurd volumes of very questionable inventory* have been produced, feeding the growth of ad block users and fraud -according to comScore, 48% of all digital traffic in Q4 2015 was NHT (Non Human Traffic).

(*King Impression´s narrow-mindedness manifests itself not only in its one-second ruling, but also in its indifference to whether said “impression” (hah!) takes place in the context of a premium content -implying an actual human being seeking it and engaging with it for quite some time-, or in the context of a jumping-jack popping up to block your screen while attempting to check the weather before you head to the airport.)

When assets have ever decreasing value, we call it deflation. And one of the main consequences is people go in default, they do not pay. In our case, they do not pay attention. Clearly, if we want a free individual to pay for something, it is our job to make it worth paying for. How can we get consumers to pay attention again in this new world?

In short: give them FULL CONTROL. Because they can live without your ads better than you can live without their attention.

Our hypothesis two and half years ago was the vast majority of people does like brands and are interested in products. And actually, even like many of the ads, Super Bowl breaks being the extreme example. What they hate is missing control of their digital experience. And fundamentally so in their smartphone, the most intimate device ever. But give the user the ability to select which brands do they find relevant, offer them brand content worth paying attention to, and empower him to choose at which moment said content is not an unwanted interruption, and you will be fascinated by the results.

On a 6 months test with over 30k users we obtained 82% viewability rates –average length of the video above 60”- and 72% CTR –se-ven-ty-two-, among other KPIs.

Lots of factors need to be taken into account when reading these results, “early-adoptism” not the least of them. But fundamentally, this is the difference between attempting to force someone to do something against his will, and procuring a fair trade of interests: we want your attention, you want control of your experience.

Having secured a pre-series A round, we are moving into V2.0 of our project. We call it Paytime, because in the economy of attention, time is the hard currency.

At its core, Paytime decouples media and advertising for the first time. Think of it as The World´s First Time Exchange. A platform in which users may trade minutes of their spare time through an App, and brands have access to them through a linked electronic market with utmost efficiency (precise segmentation, full viewability and engagement, and payment based on true performance).

Users gain a vastly superior experience. They only see the ads they choose when they want. And in return, may use their time credit to pay for the premium version of their favorite Apps or digital subscriptions (now without undesired ads!). Brands get full attention of the target they seek. The kind of attention driving A&P. And they do not waste a cent; true ROI. Publishers and App developers gain both the ability to offer their users a better experience, and incremental revenues from premium inventory.

It´s about time!

We will be releasing Paytime on Android and iOS in the coming weeks. To learn more about us, and if you would like to have your brand or publication test it, please contact us at

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