Paying Off the Adblockers vs Visitor Engagement: And the Winner Is...

Admiral tested the two primary adblock revenue recovery methods head-to-head and in combination. The results show a dramatic difference in revenue returns and RPM.

The two primary approaches to dealing with adblock losses are:

1) Visitor Engagement - Engage your adblock visitors to get blockers turned off (Allowlist or Whitelist approach), unlocking your full ad & data stack, plus offer alternative ways to support the website while growing long-term visitor relationships; and/or

2) Payoff the adblockers - Publishers pay adblock makers in exchange for them letting you show some of your ads, to some visitors, for limited RPM & fill rates. This is sometimes called ad reinsertion or acceptable ads, and positions adblock vendors as the gatekeepers or tax-collectors for pubs wishing to show ads to visitors.

Each approach has its supporters, but publishers should be aware of the substantial gap in ROI between them.  That said, choosing between them is a false choice when Admiral's VRM platform can do both in combination, to deliver maximum ROI.

This article is based on tests with ad-supported publisher sites, measuring each recovery method independently and in combination. Admiral is gathering the largest dataset on the topic to help publishers.

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Publishers are cautioned from taking a checkbox approach to adblock recovery, without a focus on maximizing website revenue. This can result in recovering just one slice of the revenue pie, while leaving the bulk of lost revenue unrecovered. When the recovery scenarios are compared head-to-head, the data can answer some key questions.

Before diving into the data, it’s helpful to clarify the definitions of each method and review pros and cons of paying the adblockers (ad reinsertion) vs visitor engagement options (allowlist, value exchange, full-stack recovery, etc).


Visitor Engagement and Allowlist Recovery

Full Stack Adblock Revenue Recovery starts by detecting who is using an adblocker and presenting those specific visitors with an engagement offer that aligns visitor choice and publisher objectives.

Golf_Digest Adblock Recovery Offer to Visitors

Engagement offers can include asking them to add the website to an Allowlist or Whitelist (including 1-Click Allowlist®), offering them a paid subscription for ad-free access, running a donations campaign so adblockers can still support the site, exchanging ad-free passes for email newsletter signups or social follows, to name a few.

Positives of Allowlist and Visitor Engagement Recovery Methods

  • Easy as installing a single tag, unlocking same-day, full-stack ad revenue -- NO CODING

  • Transparent, visitor-friendly, 100% Consent-based

  • Engagement unlocks a publisher’s full ad stack and data stack, with higher quality direct, video, and innovative campaigns at higher CPM rates.

  • Allowlist offers can work for all visitors, blockers, and browsers -- not just the subset supporting AA.

  • Data confirms a large chunk of blockers are willing to turn off adblocking for sites they like, if asked in an empathetic and intelligent manner.

  • First-party data growth accelerates via engagement, allowing publishers to build their own walled garden of loyal repeat visitors.

  • The RPMs from Allowlisting are the highest of any type of adblock recovery available.

Concerns and Limitations of Allowlisting

  • Some adblock users don't even realize they're using a blocker or don't know how to use it and, thus, need instructions on "How to Allowlist"
  • Sites where ad revenue is secondary to transaction revenue (e.g. ticket sales, e-commerce) may target engagements to specific pages/journeys to prioritize transaction revenue
  • Unless you choose default messaging, engagement requires some choices about messaging and design. (Admiral provides engagement templates as well as custom message recommendations based on deep visitor engagement expertise)

Ad Reinsertion Definition

Ad reinsertion -- or "Paying off the adblockers" -- is an adblock revenue recovery method that shows some ads, to some blockers limited by the Acceptable Ads (AA) standard, originally created by the world's largest adblock developer. Ad reinsertion is further restricted to only those blockers that have the AA option turned on, and use a blocker that partners with the AA revenue-share initiative among the adblock companies.

As ZDnet explains: "(Adblock developer) Adblock Plus generates revenue mainly through the Acceptable Ads program." Also reported by Wired, Business Insider.

Positives for Ad Reinsertion

  • Based on user consent -- although it's opt-out instead of opt-in.

  • The ads must adhere to a standard.

  • For pubs willing to forego higher CPM rates, video ad revenue, and ad placements, it allows an AdOps employee to say "I'm doing something about adblock"

Concerns and Limitations of Ad Reinsertion

  • Lower CPMs & RPMs. High-value video ads, for example, are still blocked by default.

  • Most adblock makers do not offer ad reinsertion

  • Not all users have set their adblocker to allow ads

  • Fewer ads per pageview

  • Publishers can be restricted from offering AA visitors an option to Allowlist the site

  • Publisher concerns that paying the blockers is extortion, funding more blocker technology, hurting peer publishers and driving an RPM "race to the bottom"


Analyzing Head-to-Head Data for Adblock Recovery Methods

When Admiral works with a publisher to demonstrate a head-to-head comparison of recovery potential, we typically answer 3 questions:
  1. What is the revenue recovery rate with just Allowlisting (Admiral Engage) over a select time period?

  2. What is the revenue recovery rate with just AA reinsertion over a select time period?

  3. What is the revenue recovery rate with both solutions running in combo?

Results: Ad Reinsertion vs Visitor Engagement vs Both in Combination

To answer these questions we ran head-to-head tests on diverse client sites for a full month, in multiple quarters to adjust for seasonality. Obviously, CPMs can differ greatly from client to client, so the focus is on the delta between methods on a given site. Here's what we found:
  • 4X return for Admiral Engage revenue recovery vs AA-based recovery alone. (Allowlisting vs Reinsertion)

  • 5X return for combined methods: Running Admiral's proprietary combo of Engage and AA recovery together delivered five times the revenue recovery of ad reinsertion alone.

  • Admiral Engage delivered more overall impressions (3x) than ad reinsertion, as well as a higher avg CPM, creating a force-multiplier effect -- but see massive RPM difference below.

Running Admiral's proprietary combo of Engage and AA recovery together delivered 5X the revenue recovery of ad reinsertion alone.


The Revenue Gap: “A Fraction of a Fraction of...”

Why does an Allowlist/engagement approach so clearly outperform ad reinsertion?

The reason is that ad reinsertion is handicapped by multiple factors that each reduce the addressable recovery potential for publishers. The following factors could all be in place with any visitor to the site:

  1. Reinsertion is not supported by all adblock apps - Most adblock vendors block ad reinsertion, such as the popular uBlock Origin and AdGuard.

  2. Reinsertion option turned off by user - Adblock users can easily toggle reinsertion off, even when adblock vendors try to sneak it on by default

  3. Overall CPMs are reduced by ad size, creative and location on page - AA units and placements simply aren't the most valuable to buyers, resulting in lower CPMs -- particularly no high-value video ads.

  4. Lower Impressions per Pageview: AA limits the location and number of placements, directly chopping revenue per pageview by a half or more.  Pro Tip: Don't fall for AA vendors who promise low-fill CPMs in an attempt to hide their low revenue per pageview shortcomings.

  5. Fill rate is reduced: After slicing the recovery opportunity so thin, reinsertion vendors typically do not deliver 100% fill rates, resulting in a final, thin slice of revenue left from the much larger "pie" of lost revenue taken by the very adblockers demanding payment.

Adblock Revenue Losses from Ad Reinsertion Alone

Limiting your adblock recovery to just reinsertion methods is like working with a low-value remnant ad network.

Impressions, RPM, CPM, fill rate, all suffer. Even further reductions in recovery are possible depending on the type of visitor segment you serve. Gaming and tech-savvy audiences tend to have a higher variety of adblock apps across visitors, which can reduce the number of blockers that reinsertion alone can work with.

On the flip side, leveraging an Allowlist & Engagement approach allows you to:

  • Engage all visitors, all browsers, regardless of their adblock version or settings

  • Unlocks the full ad stack, size, quantity, format and critical data stack

  • Grow first-party data via offers for newsletter signups and social follows

  • Diversify revenues via offers for paid ad-free subscriptions or donation campaigns

11X Returns! -- RPM a Better Measure of Adblock Recovery

Given all the "slicing of the pie" that AA vendors like to hide, Revenue Per 1000 Pageviews (RPM) is a better measure for analyzing the full potential of adblock recovery.

Some vendors will promise high CPM although they know reinsertion inventory can't deliver 100% fill rates, and they might even temporarily inject some direct-buy CPM’s to skew a trial, knowing that isn’t sustainable.  To combat that sleight of hand, RPM is the better measure.

We reviewed the RPM in our head-to-head evaluation, as well as RPV (Revenue per Visitor). Results showed how RPMs & RPRVs of reinsertion fall far short of Allowlisting and Engagement :

  • RPM for Admiral Engage was 11X better than reinsertion alone

  • RPV for Admiral Engage was a whopping 14X better than reinsertion alone

Takeaways from Testing Adblock Recovery Methods

If you can only choose one adblock recovery approach, the clear RPM winner is Full Stack Recovery via engagement and allowlisting.  However, publishers shouldn't have to choose a single approach, but instead, leverage both engagement and reinsertion recovery methods. In fact, Admiral offers them both, as part of our one-tag install of Visitor Relationship Management (VRM).

Even if you already have an ad reinsertion option in place, you can significantly grow your adblock recovery revenue by adding Admiral’s Engage options, unlocking the full value, fill rates, impressions, and RPM.

In adblock recovery, you get what you pay for, aka, better solutions detect more adblockers, are ahead of more adblock innovations, and drive higher revenue returns. As a rule of thumb, "Not all recovery solutions are equal.

  • Open source and in-house deliver minimal returns and struggle to stay abreast of adblocker innovation.

  • Reinsertion-only solutions offer limited RPMs for a fraction of a fraction of adblock losses.

  • Full-stack allowlist-based solutions detect and engage the maximum adblockers and drive higher RPM by unlocking a publisher's full ad and data stack.

Admiral believes in building sustainable, consent-based relationships with your visitors, with the right offer, at the right time. Reinsertion offers a remnant revenue band-aid, while engagement unlocks your full ad stack potential to more visitors.

Following adblock recovery with value exchanges like paid subscriptions, donations, email newsletters, and more grows longer-term win-win relationships with all of your visitors.

See For Yourself

When talking with clients, Admiral shares detailed data across multiple recovery methods from actual adblock recovery engagements and can combine with a publisher's real-time GAM/other data. The result is transparent, performance-based revenue recovery and diverse value exchanges that can deliver 100%+ of the revenue that was being blocked in the first place.

See additional: Head-to-Head Case Study of Adblock Recovery Methods

The data is clear, and we have the tools to help you see for yourself. Contact Admiral today to get a free test of your own unique visitors and ad stack. One tag, one vendor, installs in minutes.
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