When you analyze the effects of fraud, viewability and ad blocking on the digital display advertising business, then add the ever-increasing abilities of the traffic launderers to game the system, you reach an inevitable conclusion: ad tech has evolved into a toxic ecosystem that is killing itself, and it is taking digital advertising with it.
Bots generate more than half the traffic on the public Internet. This is indisputable. In fact, the Association of National Advertisers believes that advertisers will lose $6.3 billion globally to bots in 2015. This will not stop until someone (the marketers, the government, the justice department) makes it stop because everyone – the ad networks, the traffic sellers, the bot creators, the publishers, the ad agencies, the trading desks, the DMPs, the SSPs, everyone – except the marketers – is making money.
Every crisis needs a villain. The advertising crisis is no exception. Some want to blame ad networks, others want to blame programmatic pricing tools, and still others believe that bad coding is at fault. Page load times are an obvious villain, but maybe we should blame the evildoers who clutter our world with massive amounts of interruptive, unwanted ad fodder. In practice, there are a number of easily identifiable tactical and executional factors contributing to the industry's existential crisis. Sadly, even if the industry could solve all of them, the effort would do very little, if anything, to correct the misalignment of outcomes and incentives that are the root of ad evil.
Perhaps a better title for this article would be "TiVo BOLT – For People Who Love to Be Informed, Enlightened and Entertained by Watching Free Over-the-Air Television or IP-Delivered Traditional Television Content Through a Set-Top Box Rented from a Cable, Satellite or Telco, but Hate the Commercial Advertisements that Subsidize the Content." No matter how you spin this, the TiVo BOLT is a referendum on the state of the commercial television business. After all, you don't really hate TV; you really hate TV commercials. You probably also hate the experience of trying to get all of your content to play on your big-screen TV. This is all about to change.
Apple's iOS 9 (the new iPhone operating system) contains a very special feature that enables third-party app developers to develop Ad Blocking tools. These tools, which have been around for PC-based web browsers for years, are probably better described as "content blocking" because they allow you to block all kinds of noncommercial stuff (also because there is a heated debate as to whether or not ads are "content"). Pundits and students of the commercial advertising business have identified this technological achievement as the beginning of the end of days. Others cite history and say the industry will get past the problem. After all, content blocking is not new; it's just newly relevant. Right?