Why Ad Blocking Is Such A Big Deal In Africa

Why Ad Blocking Is Such A Big Deal In Africa

Johannesburg-based mobile network Econet Wireless plans to install network-wide ad-blocking by default for 40 million subscribers in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Burundi and Lesotho, claiming it will save customers data charges from unwanted advertising, according to Ad Exchanger.

Shine, an Israeli tech startup, will provide the ad blocking, but government regulations require Econet to give customers a choice to opt in or out of the ad blocking.

Data plans are “particularly painful” for consumers in emerging markets, said Shine chief marketing officer Roi Carthy, who described ad blocking as “essential and meaningful” for users there, Telecrunch reported.

“AdTech abuse is global,” Carthy said. “Econet isn’t the only carrier that’s driven to protect its consumers’ data plans, so we see Africa just as important a market for us as any other.”

The deal, announced Thursday, represents the third telecom partner for Shine, which has offices in California and Israel. Shine worked in 2015 with Caribbean telco Digicel, its first partner.”A couple of hundred” members there opted in to the program, Carthy said.

In February, Shine partnered with U.K.-based Three Group telecommunications and Internet service provider. The intention was to offer mobile ad blocking on its European carrier brands, Three UK and 3 Italia. Three’s subscribers will have to opt in to mobile ad blocking when the Shine implementation finally launches. No date is set.

Because Shine blocks ads at the network level, it’s a more serious threat than app- and browser-based ad blocking, according Google and New York City-based Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) — an online advertising industry trade group in the U.S. IAB has counter-ad-blocking strategies and said the ad industry isn’t concerned about Shine because Shine has few users, according to Ad Exchanger.

But what Shine does have is the support of carriers, which means it has the potential to “tear a hole right through the mobile web,” Business Insider reported.

Shine says on its website its mission is to protect consumers from advertising technology. It says its products give consumers the choice to protect themselves from abuses that include cellular data theft, tracking, targeting, and use of personal information.

Shine is boxed out of the U.S. due to net neutrality laws. It has struggled do business in global markets so Shine’s deal with a mid-tier African carrier group is really important.

Net neutrality is the principle that people should be free to access all content on the Internet, regardless of source, without Internet service providers discriminating against specific online services or websites. In other words, the company that connects you to the Internet does not get to control what you do on the Internet, according to a definition by PublicKnowledge.org. You can read more about net neutrality at Clowdwards.

Mobile carriers appreciate Shine’s vocal opposition to the advertising and media giants that profit by pushing marketing messages while service providers have to deal with customers angry about data overage charges, Ad Exchanger reported.

That vocal opposition took the form of — what else? — a full page ad in the Financial Times in November, 2015, where Shine criticized the advertising industry for placing ads that people want to block, Venture Beat reported.

“Ad blocking is robbery, plain and simple — an extortionist scheme that exploits consumer disaffection and risks distorting the economics of democratic capitalism,” IAB CEO Randall Rothenberg said in a September Advertising Age opinion piece.

Shine countered by saying, “Ad tech brought about its own inevitable demise by coming to depend on dirty revenue generated through intrusive practices that abuse consumers and defraud advertising businesses.”

The company claims it will save up to 40 percent of its users’ data plans, according to The Drum.

The ad blocking will start in Zimbabwe (which has about 10 million subscribers), followed by Burundi, South Africa and Lesotho. No firm start dates are set.

“We are proud to be able to bring the benefits of ad blocking to all of Econet’s subscribers,” said Ron Porat, CEO and co-founder of Shine. “AdTech abuse is a global phenomenon, and in Africa in particular, it is devastating to consumers’ limited data plans.”

Other benefits of ad blocking include quicker loading, cleaner looking web pages free of ads, and less waste of bandwidth and memory, said Douglas Mboweni, Econet Wireless Zimbabwe. “We are delighted that we have taken the lead in ensuring that customers have control of unsolicited ads,” Mboweni said, according to Drum.