May 19, 2020

Why ad blocking won't dent the mobile ad economy

Mobile apps
Pan Katsukis
4 min
Why ad blocking won't dent the mobile ad economy

“The end of the free internet”, “Could put small publishers out of business”, ”Anxiety across the advertising industry”.

If you believe the headlines, the sky is falling, thanks to a force which has furrowed brows across the online content business. It’s called ad blocking, and it is seriously worrying a lot of people.

Sure, ad blocking has existed for years. Driven by extensions to Google’s Chrome and Mozilla’s Firefox desktop web browser that can identify and parse out ads, PageFair estimated 144 million people were actively blocking web ads last year. And the practice is growing - now PageFair reckons there are 198 million blockers worldwide, up 41%, depriving publishers of nearly $22 billion in 2015 alone. If your ads can’t be seen, publishers can’t very well charge for them.

If you thought that was bad, consider the effect that may be wielded by Apple’s new iOS 9 framework, which allows third-party developers to write content-blocking plugins that also hide ads. Mobile devices are where people now consume a majority of their content - so the ability to block ads, inside an operating system that is so popular and which was previously so locked down, could have a big effect, right?

So why, when the headlines and predictions are so dire, is the industry not batting eyelids as hard as expected? Only 8% of publishers polled by ad tech platform vendor Operative cited ad blocking as their biggest concern, running far behind other considerations like decreasing ad impression costs. And according to a Strata survey, only 9% of US ad agency professionals - the people who should be fretting on advertisers’ behalf - said it was a major concern.

They are right not to be so worried. Because for all the worry playing out in the media, when it comes to online advertising, we aren’t anticipating the end of days. Ad blocking will have a minimal impact on mobile content, and here is why…

Quite simply, when we are talking about mobile ad blocking, what we are really talking about is mobile web ad blocking. iOS 9’s new extensions work inside its Safari web browser only. Plugins for apps would mean a severe privacy issue for users and are banned from Apple.

This significantly blunts the force that ad blocking will have on the small screen because, unlike on the desktop, it is apps - and not the web - which rule the roost.

According to mobile analytics firm Flurry, apps accounted for 86% of mobile users’ device time. And that was back in March 2014 - since then, this propensity has increased, as apps become more appealing and as iOS, which depends less on the web than does Google’s Android, gains a bigger foothold.

Safari, which Apple’s content blockers work against, commands only 6% of overall mobile device usage, Flurry says.

In fact, apps aren't just the most-consumed channel on mobile, but US consumers are now also spending more time on apps than they are on watching TV.

The most oft-cited barometer of consumers’ propensity to block ads, mentioned in this article, comes from PageFair. Yet PageFair is neither a market research organisation, nor an innocent bystander in all this. The Dublin-based startup’s whole business is predicated on selling an anti-ad blocking consultancy to worried publishers, who naturally become “better” customers when coaxed into a state of paranoia

Other findings are equally self-motivated. Take this month’s research by the Interactive Advertising Bureau UK (IAB UK), which found that18% of internet users are now using ad blockers. Notwithstanding the fact that the body represents online advertisers, who want as large an audience as possible and are likely keen to force publishers to drive down prices, the headline figure overlooks the fact that a sizeable proportion of ad blocker users don’t want to block all ads, just the annoying ones.

The concern built up around ad blocking has become so chronic that it is impossible to imagine nothing being done - it is highly unlikely that the industry would just sit back and accept things.

There is already a growing public acceptance that publishers simply shouldn't overload browsers with ads. Just this month The Guardian committed to provide its readers with better quality ads. Meanwhile, ads are continuing to offer a guaranteed route to customers.

For these reasons, it is unlikely that mobile web ad blocking will bring about the advertising apocalypse, as predicted by some industry commentators. In fact, mobile ad spend is widely forecast to grow significantly in coming years.

As protected executable code, apps have always offered excellent brand exposure to companies trying to reach users. And they continue to offer advertisers guaranteed visibility, even while mobile web browsers leave them vulnerable to wipe-out.

Of course, this does not diminish the threat that ad blockers per se will pose to desktop. Nor does it mean that all in-app ads are guaranteed success when served. In the years ahead, advertisers should best arm themselves by moving over to mobile and by endeavouring to build the most engaging creative ads they can.

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May 28, 2021

Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work

Kate Birch
4 min
As a new report reveals most office workers are crushed by repetitive tasks, we talk the value of automation with UiPath’s MD of Northern Europe, Gavin Mee

Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.

Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.

Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.

When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”

And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.

Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work

By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.

“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”

These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.

Repetitive tasks that can be automated

Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”

These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.

“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”

Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.

Five business areas that can be automated

Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.

  1. Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
  2. Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
  3. Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
  4. IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
  5. Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.

“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”


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