Q4 Comes in with a Bang for Online Advertising

September is a month of changes for the digital advertising industry. Advertisers are looking to spend money in Q4, where they get most of their sales, and publishers are desperate for the Q4 revenue that often supports them during most of the remainder of the year. So changing the game on the industry in September is probably the worst possible time to shake things up.

First Google and Mozilla blocked Flash on the Chrome and Firefox browsers beginning September 1, and then on the 9th Apple released IOS9 with built-in content blocking capabilities for mobile. Blocking Flash should have been done long ago, because it was a technology whose security holes could never be sufficiently patched, and which deposited enough malware on corporate computers to cause many internal IT departments to block it years ago. When Steve Jobs said he wasn’t going to support it on the iPhone and iPad, it was only a matter of time until it went away. Even Adobe, whose product Flash was, saw the writing on the wall.

But many ads were still designed to run in Flash, because it was the first, cheapest and fastest way to get animation into online ads.These ads will all have to be redesigned in HTML5, which replaces Flash.

As if that didn’t preoccupy the industry enough, Apple’s next mobile operating system will let users install apps that block ads in Safari browser. The Wall Street Journal wrote,

Making ad blockers available on iOS, one of two main smartphone-operating systems, is expected to prompt more consumers to use the technology. The benefits of blocking ads arguably are greater on smartphones than on personal computers, because they can reduce the clutter on small screens and help pages load faster.

Silicon Valley pundits have seen Apple’s move as a way to get at Google, its main competitor for smartphone operating systems, because Google’s business model is dependent on advertising. On the other hand, Apple’s users have much of the money that is spent on mobile.

It gets even more ugly when you realize that Apple’s own ads, sold through its own mobile ad network, will not be blocked, giving Apple another competitive advantage.

For advertisers and developers, this move is expected to shift the market for advertising from mobile web to within applications themselves, where Apple will not block ads.

For consumers, this may be even more of a headache. And for advertisers, it will be more of a crapshoot to find customers in the millions of apps in the App stores, while for publishers whose mobile apps are not heavily downloaded, it may be the end of the parade.

As for us, our formats have been redesigned to support HTML5. This hasn’t been a surprise.