Facebook has launched measures to circumvent the effect of ad blockers on its desktop site, instead requiring users to adjust their preference settings.

The social network, which generated $6.2 billion from advertising in Q2 this year, will begin to show ads to those with ad blockers installed on desktop, but has vowed to provide more powerful controls for the user to hide or adjust the ads they’re being served.  

While Facebook pulls in most of its revenue from advertising, figures for 2016 could see ads on mobile account for 75% of its income (eMarketer), a platform which has largely dodged the ad blocker bullet.

The ‘discussion’

“This isn’t motivated by inventory; it’s not an opportunity for Facebook from that perspective,” said Andrew Bosworth, vice president of Facebook’s ads and business platform. 

“We’re doing it more for the principle of the thing. We want to help lead the discussion on this.”

According to the IAB, of which Facebook itself is a member, ad blocker usage among UK adults is estimated at around 22%, while in the States the figure climbs to as much as 26%, which despite the company’s intentions, represents millions in lost ad revenue.

Facebook’s announcement has attracted criticism from Eyeo, the makers AdBlock Plus, whose communications and operations manager, Ben Williams, wrote that the anti-ad blocking initiative was a “dark path against user choice”.

However, Bosworth has shot back that Facebook is staunchly averse to the use of ad block white-listing services, which allow for paying companies, such as Criteo, to bypass through filters. AdBlock Plus currently has 70 companies on its books that pay a fee to waive the effect of its software.

“It’s not something that Facebook wants to be a part of. It’s not a business model that’s set out to serve the best interests of people,” he commented.

Third-party products

While it’s easy to imagine the publisher industry following in the footsteps of the social network, Facebook has a distinct advantage in the fact that it loads and serves its own ads on its service, and can therefore circumvent ad blockers with relative ease.

In actuality, the majority of digital publishers rely on third-party ad servers to provide inventory for their web pages, which is much easier for ad blocking products to identify. Nevertheless, the warning shot fired by Facebook has potential to spur on a consumer acceptance, or at least awareness, of anti-ad blocking measures.

There are already a number of third-party technology companies that look set to cash in on a growing demand for these types of services, including the likes of PageFair, Sourcepoint, Secret Media and Admiral.