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AdBlock Crowdfunding Ad Campaign to Block Online Ads
© Image: Background: Shutterstock / JK1991

AdBlock Crowdfunding Ad Campaign to Block Online Ads

AdBlock is one of the most popular browser extensions on the web, boasting over 15 million users on Chrome alone. As the name suggests, the free program allows users to block online advertisements, making browsing less annoying but also potentially hurting websites that rely on advertising money to stay afloat. 

In a clever marketing move that's targeted at those who aren't familiar with the extension, AdBlock recently launched a crowdfunding campaign to advertise its services — yes, an ad campaign for a program that eliminates ads. The crowdfunding initiative has already raised over $50,000, which is enough money to launch an online ad campaign and put up a billboard in Times Square. If it can raise a total of $150,000 over the next two weeks, AdBlock will place a full-page ad in the New York Times; in the unlikely event that it can muster $4.2 million, you'll see an AdBlock commercial during this year's Super Bowl. 

We reached out via email to Michael Gundlach, AdBlock's creator, with a few questions about the campaign and his choice to use a white label solution — Crowdhoster, which was created by Crowdtilt — instead of turning to an established platform like Kickstarter or Indiegogo. Check out his responses below!

Anton Root, When did you decide to run a crowdfunding campaign, and why did you think it was the best way to spread the message?

Michael Gundlach, AdBlock creator: An AdBlock user, Matt Krisiloff, approached me with the idea a few months ago. AdBlock has always relied on word-of-mouth marketing, but this has still resulted in a huge number of people not having heard about AdBlock. It makes sense that showing ads for AdBlock will reach the exact users that need to hear about it -- and it's fun to think of making ads about blocking ads. I asked Matt to run the project, and he and two friends, Gene Lee and Charles Cary, have done almost everything to build and execute the campaign.

Did you consider going to Kickstarter, Indiegogo, or another platform? Why did you settle on Crowdhoster and decide to create a self-run campaign?

AdBlock is an open-source project, so I felt it aligned well with the spirit of Crowdhoster. I also found it appealing to build our own site focusing on AdBlock rather than a site like Kickstarter or Indiegogo where their brand comes first. Crowdhoster has a powerful edge in this sense.

What has your experience with Crowdhoster been like?

I believe that Crowdhoster is an incredibly cutting-edge tool in the crowdfunding world, and it's been great to be amongst the first groups to work with the platform. As the Crowdhoster team keeps working towards its wide release, I'm confident it has the chance to become the premier crowd-funding method for the Internet.

The campaign has already succeeded in raising enough money for a Times Square billboard and online ad campaign — are you surprised at all by the reaction? Has the campaign met your expectations thus far?

I'm awed and humbled that over three thousand people so far have contributed because they love AdBlock and want to share it with the world. I have always loved the thank you notes that I get from users, and it feels like I've gotten 3000 thank you notes all at once.

I'm also excited to see that we've passed the $50,000 mark, so we'll be able to put an ad in Times Square! I'm looking forward to seeing what billboard our contributors vote for! Contributors will also be able to create the ads themselves — people have been sending unsolicited ideas for video commercials already, which have been hilarious.

Aside from the monetary contributions, have you seen any other positives as a result of the campaign? How has the campaign affected your site’s activity levels? Has there been a noticeable bump in traffic and in the number of people installing the extension?

AdBlock is installed over a hundred thousand times a day, but on the days that the campaign has been running the rate has been up about 20%. People are spreading the word already.

A number of writers, while they understand that ads are annoying, have been critical of ad blocking software as it reduces the amount of money companies (like news outlets) can make from advertisements, thereby lowering pay and lessening the quality of the content. What are your thoughts on this?

I think that legacy ad blockers that don't put the user in control are bad for the Web. One legacy ad blocker, Adblock Plus, even goes so far as to decide what ads to show based on which websites pay Adblock Plus for the privilege! I agree that schemes like this would harm the Web if implemented at a large scale.

With AdBlock, I want to find a solution that is good for everyone – users, websites, and advertisers. I'm constantly looking for ways to give users a voice to say what kinds of ads they are interested in, so that websites can serve ads that their users want to click. For example, with two clicks a user can turn on all ads on a website whose ads they approve of; and with a single click they can turn on text ads in Google search results if they find those useful.

While we don't have anything to announce at this time, our goal is for AdBlock users to love every ad that they see, and for websites to get a higher click-through rate from AdBlock users than from the rest of the Web. As more and more people use AdBlock, we'll be able to improve the internet for users, advertisers, and websites.

What advice do you have for those considering running their own crowdfunding campaigns?

Try to test reward pricing in advance of the main launch. We 'soft launched' with some previous AdBlock supporters and adjusted our reward pricing based on their feedback. Backers have to feel like they are getting real value for contributing — if your reward prices are out of whack, it can be hard to have a really successful campaign.

We'd like to thank AdBlock creator Michael Gundlach for taking the time to answer our questions. Click here to visit the AdBlock site and learn more about the extension.

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  • Pagefair Pagefair Sep 11, 2013 09:48 pm GMT

    Interesting opinions, and we have some questions for Adblock. What exactly constitutes a “large scale”? AdBlock Plus alone has over 150k downloads per day, on top of the 15 million Adblock users on Chrome alone. In our latest report, we found that the average adblocking rate could be over 20% across the web, and there is still no realistic, sustainable alternative to the online advertising revenue model. Adblock also claims that it is simple to approve ads for certain websites, but how many of their users actually do so? We can shut down the ads, but the content will still have to be funded somehow. We as users will end up paying to see all content, this time out of pocket.

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