Is Sponsored Content Antidote To Ad Blocking?

Five publishers weigh in on how to counter a softening advertising market.

Is Sponsored Content Antidote To Ad Blocking?

A 2015 report from PageFair and Adobe (’s parent company) reported more than 198 million active ad-blocking users around the world, costing publishers nearly $22 billion in lost revenue last year.

For this installment of “ Wants To Know,” we asked publishers whether sponsored content could be the answer to the ad-blocking dilemma. Here’s what they said.

Mark Miller, Executive Vice President, News Advertising Sales, NBCUniversal

Ad blocking is a very important industrywide issue, and we all need to drive to a universal solution. Ad products are still a part of the overall advertising ecosystem, and it is widely accepted that we will have to evolve beyond the 30-second commercial and banner advertising. Having said that, no one denies that compelling premium content is still the best way to engage consumers and deliver a brand message.

Kelly Andresen, VP Of Branded Content, Gannett

The increase in use of ad-blocking technologies is a consumer call for more relevant and engaging advertiser messaging. Branded content is one way to address that need; however, the ad industry needs to continue to innovate to create other ad experiences that are not dependent on content alone, that consumers actively seek.

Tom Davis, CMO, Forbes Media

Better ad messaging, better creative, and better understanding of the audience needs will all lead to better digital advertising. I don’t think there is one reason consumers install ad-blocking software. But since Forbes BrandVoice is distributed through our content management system and does not make a separate ad call to an ad server, it is consumed the same way as all other Forbes content and, as a result, is not blocked by ad-blocking tools.

Todd Haskell, SVP And CRO, Hearst Magazines Digital Media

We see a very, very low incident of ad blocking. The main reason why is our site experiences are really positive. We don’t have a lot of pop-up ads and pop-unders and overlays and all these intrusive experiences, so readers just don’t even bother deploying ad blocking on our site. But we’re keeping a very close eye on it because that could change over time, and we just want to be very conscious of that.

We do see branded content as a potential approach to mitigate ad blocking if it becomes a more material issue that will get our business. It hasn’t so far. But I think what’s also most important is the reason it is an anecdote is because this is content that the reader actually enjoys and chooses to engage with. The reason is doesn’t get blocked is it’s actually delivering value to the reader, and I think that’s the Holy Grail.

Jeff Pundyk, VP Of Global Integrated Content Solutions, The Economist, And’s “Digital Disruption” Blogger

There’s no secret that both banner ads and advertising, in general, is in decline. Media companies that are completely dependent on advertising have had to find creative ways to survive, without undercutting their value proposition.

That said, it doesn’t mean banners are not an important part of our business, and for many publishers it still accounts for a significant amount of revenue. But it certainly is a very, very challenged part of our business—that’s no secret. So alternative revenue streams, like sponsored content, help as the advertising business softens.

What do you think? Take our poll and let us know: