IF at IFF: Advertising after ad blockers

Ian Hutchinson
Mar 14, 2016 · 3 min read

Now the dust has settled on the Internet Freedom Festival in Valencia, I wanted to write a bit about our workshop- “You and Your Data”.

2016 is the year of blocking. Stickers cover laptop webcams and the Internet is alight with writing about the rise of ad blockers. There are the doomsayers like the UK Culture Secretary, who predicts the end of the economic model that’s allowed the web to become a vibrant source of content. Conversely, there are those who wish a swift downfall to poor quality, battery-draining and allowance-eating adverts.

Rather than just discuss the problem, we facilitated a quick workshop at IFF to come up with potential solutions for how the Internet could be paid for, post ad-blocking.

We introduced Doc Searls’ intention economy, a new model that focuses on consumers broadcasting intent to engage with a product, rather than having advertising seek a consumer out. We spoke about why advertising can be useful in promoting social issues and enhancing consumer choice and explained how better models of consent could facilitate trusted relationships between advertisers and their online audience.

A common sight in 2016: modal dialogues that encourage users to turn off adblocking.

A better way

To get the groups started, we asked them:

  • Is there a need for design standards in advertising?
  • What models for financing content are available beyond advertising?
  • What do ads look like after ad blockers?

What we learned

An interesting idea involved separating advertising from content. The audience would visit a particular page where they could interact with ads, and could then access content without impediment from advertising.

The audience group had a distinctly dystopian frame. They fast-forwarded the proliferation of Internet of Things devices to imagine a scenario where you’d have to watch an ad to get hot water from a smart tap.

Beyond the session

The idea of an intention economy is promising, because its use of open data sets makes the data more actionable and useful and can be used to connect consumers with products. But how can this engage people on an emotional level, especially when promoting social causes?

Those who find advertising a strain on their attention while using the web would welcome advertising holidays, but how would the funding gap be filled while adverts are turned off? Micropayments would remove the need for advertising altogether by directly funding and incentivising those who make content, but this deny access to the less well off and make the Internet less democratic?

- Ian


We’d love to know your thoughts and ideas. We’re @projectsbyif on Twitter.

Ian Hutchinson

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