As someone who spends a lot of time surfing
the Web in search of interesting electronics and technical news, I am painfully
aware of the annoyances caused by intrusive, overwhelming advertisements. The most
detestable are the full-screen ads that get in your face before ever seeing the
webpage, and/or once on the page some cursed ad with video and audio plays automatically.
It is no wonder that an exponentially increasing portion of Internet users are employing
ad blocking software. Ad blockers, the most popular of which is AdBlock Plus (see
chart at right of user penetration via
PageFair's research), are essentially popup blockers on steroids.
They install as add-ons for desktop browsers and as native apps for smartphones.
Ad blockers intercept anything and everything their designers decide might qualify
as an advertisement - even if it might be legitimate content and not an ad at all.
If you are an advertiser paying
for proprietary representation on a website, you are advised to determine whether
your ads can be blocked.
RF Cafe (above)
- only 3rd-party ads are blocked
Other websites (below) - everything
What constitutes an 'acceptable' ad in their opinion? There are guidelines on
that specify what size and placement should get through. For example, "When placed
above the primary content, the maximum height of an ad should be 200px. When placed
on the side of the primary content, the maximum width of an ad should be 350px.
When placed below the primary content, the maximum height of an ad should be 400px."
Also, no ad may be placed within the primary page content. These restrictions alone
disqualify the vast majority of ads. But wait, there's more. IFrames for serving
ads are prohibited in all forms, all ads 'above the fold' may not occupy more than
15% of the total viewable area, and 'below the fold' ads may not occupy more than
25% of the viewable area. Blocking is not only reserved for graphics because even
text-based ad will be blocked if it contains "excessive use of colors and/or other
elements to grab attention." That doesn't leave much opportunity for ads.
Among the long list of 'unacceptable' ad formats are: "Ads that visibly load
new ads if the Primary Content does not change, Ads with excessive or non user-initiated
hover effects, Animated ads, Autoplay-sound or video ads, Expanding ads, Generally
oversized image ads, Interstitial page ads, Overlay ads, Overlay in-video ads, Pop-ups,
Pop-unders, Pre-roll video ads, and Rich media ads (e.g. Flash ads, Shockwave ads,
"Hurray for AdBlock Plus!," you might be saying. Admittedly, I say that too for
the truly obnoxious websites that mount an audiovisual jihad against you with noisy
videos that play automatically, full-screen popovers, and opening screens that force
you to make a choice of some sort.
Up until a couple weeks ago, I operated under the mistaken assumption that ad
blockers only attacked ads from 3rd-party publishers like Google and Bing; however,
after installing AdBlock Plus on my computer and doing some testing, I was horrified
to discover that the bugger was blocking not just all of my private ads that I display
directly from the RF Cafe server, but also under certain conditions images that
are a part of articles I have posted are also prevented from being displayed. It
was a call to action that could not be ignored.
If you do a search on ad blockers and how to defeat them, the consensus is that
under most conditions there is no way around them. After some pretty extensive testing
of scenarios, involving 3rd-party ads, privately served ads, and various carefully
selected images, I arrived at some conclusions regarding what will and will not
get past ad blockers. As usual, when I compare my empirically derived results with
the majority of what is written by blogger and forum contributors, it is apparent
that people are merely regurgitating what everyone else is saying without having
any personal knowledge, and a lot is flat-out wrong.
Website publishers, including yours truly, are very concerned with assuring advertisers
that their messaging to our visitors is being delivered. RF Cafe relies heavily
on RF component companies underwriting the costs of production, and therefore has
to provide a certain level of return on investment to clients. If their ads are
being blocked, no potential customers will visit their websites in search of products
or services. There are two basic schools of thought on how to handle Web surfers
who use ad blockers. The first is to include code in each HTML page that detects
whether an ad blocker is at work, and if so present a message to the viewer requesting
either that he/she/it add the website to the ad blocker's white list, or pay some
nominal subscription fee. The former is only slightly likely to happen and the latter
almost never happens. The user looks for the information somewhere else. People
who would never consider giving away anything of their own for free expect to pay
nothing for the benefit of someone else's efforts. That's just that way it is.
After making some fairly major changes to the way RF Cafe serves ads, I have
arrived at a system that permits my privately served banner ads to be displayed
reliably despite AdBlock Plus' attempts to block them. I have even managed to get
some 3rd-party ads to display - a feat not claimed by any of the posters whose comments
I read while researching the issue. Part of my effort included testing most of the
websites I visit frequently including technical news sites and trade magazine sites
- a lot of which have ads from some of the same companies that advertise on RF Cafe.
I discovered that what appeared to be private ads on those sites (i.e., not 3rd-party),
were being blocked when AdBlock Plus was turned on. That goes for both desktop and
smartphone testing. At least until the other websites fix their problems, I can
claim that RF Cafe is currently the only engineering website I am aware of whose
private advertisers' material is not blocked. There are some instances where what
appears to be private ads manage to get through, but I believe based on testing
that it is because of pure luck and not because of any intentional implementation
on their part to thwart the blockers.
What is my secret, you might ask? I'm not going to divulge my findings or my
methods mainly because if I do, there will be an endless barrage of e-mails informing
me of how wrong I am and that my methods don't work for them. All I will say is
if you run an ad blocker, take a look at a few RF Cafe pages both with and without
the ad blocker enabled. You will see that my industry standard banner ads are consistently
displayed in either case. This result has been confirmed in Internet Explorer, Edge,
Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. As baseball Hall of Famer
Dizzy Dean is often
quoted as saying, "It ain't bragging if you can back it up."
If you run an ad blocker, please do me a favor and add rfcafe.com to the website
whitelist. Doing so will help keep RF Cafe on the air since otherwise the 3rd-part
type ads will usually be blocked.
To the right are multiple examples of what some websites look like without and
with AdBlock Plus running. Note the empty spaces where ads used to be.
Posted June 18, 2016