Why Three is Wrong About Mobile Ad-Blocking

I hate display advertising. Chances are you do as well.

No creative will look at their brief and ask “But where are the banners?”

No client will notice them missing in the presentation.

And few real humans actually have a chance to see them thanks to viewability and ad-fraud.

And even fewer will actually notice thanks to our brain trained over time to filter out spam.

So really we should all be welcoming Three’s latest decision to block mobile display ads network-side. (Full coverage here: http://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/three-block-mobile-ads-european-network-level/1384172)

Except if you believe in the principle of “Net Neutrality”.

Three says “irrelevant and excessive mobile ads annoy customers and affect their overall network experience”, which we could say about advertising in general across any medium or platform.

Setting aside the user experience argument, Three then tries to make the case that users should not pay data charges to receive ads, and that these should be borne by the advertiser.

This is where the bigger challenge to Net Neutrality starts, where we should treat all data that travels over networks fairly, without improper discrimination in favor of particular apps, sites or services.

Loading a webpage is a user-initiated action, not an accident, so the user should be expected to front the cost of the data to load it. If that page is funded by advertising, then it has to include the ads as well. Some websites such as City AM will no longer load with mobile ad blockers.

But where Three’s initiative starts to really unravel is the disparity in it’s implementation: it won’t block mobile ads on platforms like YouTube or Facebook sponsored autoplay videos. Ads that I wouldn’t exactly describe as ‘welcome’ or ‘relevant’, nor that I am happily willing to spend my data on.

So in effect Three is then starting to undermine the survival of web publishing outlets and giving priority the biggest established platforms.

It may be helping kill display advertising, but isn’t making mobile advertising any better.

Three’s previous advertising campaign.