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Advertisers are very concerned about the popularity of mobile ad blocker apps, but may not be able to overcome the threat without making tough changes to their ads.

That was perhaps the big takeaway from a panel at the ad:tech conference on mobile ad blocking, which featured some key people involved in the debate.

The fear is that if consumers are blocking mobile ads, the publishers that run them won’t be paid and will no longer be able to survive.

“How do we balance the right of the publisher to get paid with the right of the consumer not to get stalked and hounded?”  Bob Knorpp of The CoolBeans Group asked, cutting right to the core issue of the ad blocking debate.

Panelist Pieter Mees of Zentrick pointed out that users will always want to block ads that suck. In many cases that means installing an ad blocker to rid themselves of intrusive ads that detract from the mobile browsing experience.

“As long as people control their own devices they are going to try to move their own objectives, and the only way to change that is to offer more value,” he said.

“As soon as ad blockers start blocking valuable content, people will stop installing them,” he added.

Most of the marketing and advertising people in the room agree with the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) that viewing content while blocking the ads that come with it is tantamount to stealing.

Still, the IAB seems to want to work with consumers, not against them, to solve the problem.

” . . . we need to solve these problems with the consumer where they’re not seeing ads that are relevant to them,” said IAB COO Patrick Dolan.

For one thing, Dolan said, mobile users are informed when an ad is being blocked, so at least they have the choice of whether to view it or not.

The IAB has already begun setting down guidelines for how advertisers can make non-obtrusive, mobile friendly ad units. The ads, Dolan explained, should be light-weight, encrypted, should offer the user a choice of ad experiences, and should be non-intrusive to the user.

But figuring out how to make ads that have all those qualities, good creative, and broad reach may be a tough nut to crack. That’s because the more creative work you put into an ad to make it more appealing, the greater the cost to the advertiser. And the more data calls the ad unit makes to targeting databases to try to deliver more relevant ads, the slower the ad unit runs in the browser.

“It’s something we’re struggling with; honestly we are trying to figure it out but we haven’t figured it out,” said Drew Porter of the agency twofifteenmccann.

Today, 34 percent of web users have installed some sort of ad blocker. Eighteen percent of tablet users have installed one, and almost a quarter of all mobile phone users — 24 percent — have installed an ad blocker.

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