The IAB Calls Ad Blocking ‘Highway Robbery’ and Ramps Up Its Call to Arms

'There's a war between engineers'

Headshot of Christopher Heine

Scott Cunningham, svp at the Interactive Advertising Bureau and general manager of the IAB Tech Lab, told Adweek after a press conference today that he's been privy to ad-blocking data from major publishers that have recently begun using software that detects ad blocking. Pressed to characterize what the data means for advertisers, he declined further comment, but it's hard to imagine such stats contain good news for people who depend on digital-media paychecks. 

"We don't want to see this type of highway robbery," Cunningham said earlier, during the morning junket, which was part of an ad-blocking session at the annual IAB Mixx Conference. "We'd like [ad blockers] to play fair."

The ad-blocking topic picked up steam earlier this month with the release of Apple's IOS9, the mobile operating system that lets developers for the first time create ad blockers for the uber-popular iPhone. Publishers are pushing back with software to detect ad blockers and sometimes work around them. 

"There's a war between engineers," said Cunningham (pictured).

The IAB has ramped up its advocacy at a time when ad blocking is growing among consumers. It's advising the publishing community to educate viewers about how ad blocking could hurt their online experience by blocking out useful content. The Washington Post and Hulu are two media companies already putting that idea into practice.

As another example, the IAB has devised Web code that is designed to help small publishers detect ad-blocking visitors. "We believe this script will actually help enable them in their fight just by enabling their ability to detect," Cunningham said.

Rich Jaworski, CEO of, who briefly spoke in conjunction with Cunningham, said 10 percent of his food-oriented site's promos are getting stiff-armed.

"Ad blockers have a business they're trying to run," he said. "We have to try to remove that model."

Additionally, the IAB has created an information hub to inform publishers and marketers about the latest tools to fight ad blockers like Adblock Plus, Crystal, Purify and Blockr.

Cunningham said his organization is also considering legal recourse against ad blockers, though it's uncertain whether much headway can be made. For instance, earlier on Tuesday, a German court reportedly ruled in favor or Adblock Plus in a case versus publisher Axel Springer (which just bought Business Insider). 

There is a bit of good news for publishers on the ad-blocking front: Marketing Land reports that ad-blocking apps for IOS9 are declining in popularity. Two weeks ago, such apps ascended to the top of the Apple Store for paid apps.

@Chris_Heine Christopher Heine is a New York-based editor and writer.
Publish date: September 29, 2015 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT