Facebook begins thwarting ad blockers

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Although Facebook now generates upwards of 80% of its revenue from mobile ads, the world’s largest social network isn’t waving the white flag on desktop ad blocking.

Yesterday, it announced that it’s changing the way it delivers desktop ads in an effort to thwart ad blocking software.

Andrew Bosworth, Facebook’s Ads & Business Platform VP, didn’t mince words, telling the Wall Street Journal, “Facebook is ad-supported. Ads are a part of the Facebook experience; they’re not a tack on.” In a blog post, he explained Facebook’s position in slightly more diplomatic terms:

We’ve designed our ad formats, ad performance and controls to address the underlying reasons people have turned to ad blocking software. When we asked people about why they used ad blocking software, the primary reason we heard was to stop annoying, disruptive ads.

Facebook believes that it’s well on its way to addressing concerns over annoying ads.

“As a result of what we’ve learned, we’ve introduced tools to help people control their experience, improved how we decide which ads to show and created new ad formats that complement, rather than detract from, people’s experience online,” Bosworth stated.

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Given this, Facebook says it will begin displaying ads to desktop users even when they’re using ad blocking software.

At the same time, it’s rolling out new ad controls that give users the ability to remove specific interests from their ad preferences and to disable ads from companies that have added them to Custom Audiences.

Good news for marketers?

At first glance, Facebook’s stance vis-à-vis ad blocking looks to be a net positive for marketers active on the social network.

If Facebook can thwart desktop ad blockers, marketers won’t have to worry that their ability to reach users through Facebook ads is being compromised.

At the same time, by allowing users to remove interests, Facebook could ironically help marketers using interest-based targeting improve the efficacy of their campaigns.

After all, if a user is so opposed to being targeted based on a specific interest (i.e. travel) that she removes it using Facebook’s ad controls, a marketer is arguably better off not paying to reach that consumer based on that interest.

But one of Facebook’s new ad controls could prove more problematic for marketers. For many marketers, retargeting through Custom Audiences is highly effective. If users opt out of this en masse, some marketers could find it more difficult to employ Facebook to run successful retargeting campaigns, hampering their Facebook ROI.

The big question is whether users will take advantage of Facebook’s ad controls in sizable numbers.

Given the large number of settings Facebook already provides that aren’t immediately apparent, it’s probably a safe bet that the number of desktop users who are forced to view ads will exceed the number of users who take full advantage of Facebook’s new ad controls.

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