Tealium and Ad Blockers

ty_gavin
Tealium Employee

As ad blockers gain in popularity, so do the number of work-arounds, and the number of questions from Tealium customers about how this affects their installation. In this post I cover the popular ad blockers, how websites are reacting, and most importantly, how Tealium is affected by all of this.

In this article:

AdBlock and Adblock Plus

The most popular ad blockers are AdBlock and Adblock Plus , which are available for every major browser. Yes, these are separate products, which makes the names confusing, but the teams behind these separate projects recently joined together to work on their shared mission to "make the internet a better place."

As part of this effort, AdBlock lists the following features for its plugin for Google Chrome:

  • Block annoying video ads and banners
  • Block pop ups
  • Stop tracking and give yourself more privacy
  • Fight off destructive malvertising that can hide in ads
  • Give yourself faster browsing (as resources are blocked from loading)
  • Customize features, like whitelisting for favorite sites
  • Get free and constant support
  • Give yourself simply more control of the experience you want

The primary goal of the plugin is to block ads, pop-ups, and tracking. However, they make it clear that they won't block all tracking all the time. In fact, some ads, such as those determined to be acceptable, will still appear when using the default settings. And to go beyond ad blocking and block tracking pixels, you have to opt-in to a more aggressive blocking setting. 

For more information, see Allowing acceptable ads in Adblock Plus.

The Adblock Plus EasyList, which is not used by default and requires opt-in, doesn't include any domains or patterns that match Tealium endpoints, with one minor exception. There is one entry for /utag.loader. This is probably a reference to the first Tealium endpoint URL from 2011, which is no longer in use.

Historically, these tools had only been used by technical people. For example, there is an EasyList forum discussion that has links to help you learn regular expressions. This was knowledge you would need to be able to customize your filter rules with advanced syntax. But the ubiquity of browser plugins has made these ad blockers commonplace now. A quick visit to the Chrome Web Store and you're only a couple clicks away from installing an ad blocker.

Workarounds for Website Owners

The most common workaround is to detect ad blocking software and display a message to the user that the ad blocker needs to be disabled to use the site. This works really well at filtering out your visitors who use ad blockers, but it might work too well. This workaround has the risk of decreasing traffic to your site as more people use ad blockers. However, for a visitor that really wants to use your site, the ad blocker plugins make it easy to make an exception for the current site.

However, to avoid the disruptive user experience, website owners are simply using ads from the list of approved advertisers and hoping that their visitors are using the default settings mode.

How do ad blockers affect Tealium?

The first thing to understand is that Tealium is not an advertiser, so in general, the Tealium endpoints will not be targeted by these lists. On the other hand, Tealium iQ Tag Management is a flexible platform that can be used to implement just about any kind of JavaScript solution, including installing an ad vendor's code snippet. But even in that case, the ad blockers should be targeting the offending ad vendor directly, not the container tag hosted by Tealium.

For example, the Google Publisher Tag allows a site to asynchronously fill in ad slots with ads from Google.  This tag is easily configured and added to your site from the tag marketplace in iQ Tag Management, but the ads themselves are not loaded from Tealium domains. The ad blockers will detect the Google domains that serve the ads, not the Tealium domains that loaded the container JavaScript.

For a more detailed look at how Tealium is affected by ad blockers, here are the two main Tealium endpoints:

Tealium Multi-CDN

Product: Tealium iQ Tag Management
Endpoint: tags.tiqcdn.com

There are so many ad blocking lists in use that you will eventually find an obscure one that contains tags.tiqcdn.com. However, the more popular lists are focused on blocking advertisements, so they shouldn't have any reason to block tags.tiqcdn.com.

Tealium Collect

Product: Tealium EventStream and Tealium AudienceStream
Endpoint: collect.tealiumiq.com

Tealium Collect is a data collection endpoint, so blocking this will not affect the user experience. It doesn't serve ads nor does it run JavaScript code, so it's very unlikely to end up on an ad blocking list.

However, this endpoint could be affected by someone attempting to block tracking. For this reason, the Tealium Collect endpoint is a good candidate for using a CNAME. A CNAME would change the endpoint to something on your own domain, such as collect.example.com.  And yes, ITP in Safari can detect CNAMEs, but this is used to limit cookies not to block requests..

Popular Ad Blocking Lists

Here are some popular ad blocking lists and how they reference Tealium:

uBlock Origin

This list has tags.tiqcdn.com blocked for the following two sites:

@@||tags.tiqcdn.com^$script,domain=bild.de
@@||tags.tiqcdn.com^$script,domain=pch.com
YoYo Peter Lowe Block List

This list contains the following:

127.0.0.1 tags.tiqcdn.com
127.0.0.1 tealium.com
127.0.0.1 tealiumiq.com

It’s not clear if tealium.com will still work if you have this list or if only cookies are blocked.

EasyList Cookie List

This list appears to have these div IDs in the allow section, indicating it will allow the Tealium Consent Manager to run.

online.no,telenor.no#@##__tealiumGDPRcpPrefs
online.no,telenor.no#@##__tealiumGDPRecModal
EasyPrivacy

This list blocks the following:

/tealium-analytics.
/tealium-api/*
/tealium-udo.
/tealium-web/*
/tealium.html?
/tealium.js

Tealium uses the tealium.js JavaScript inside Google Tag Manager (GTM) integration for data collection inside GTM. The other patterns do not match any Tealium endpoints.

URLhaus Malicious URL List

This is a malicious URL list. Tealium domains are not on this list.

URLhaus Malicious Hosts List

This is a malicious site list. Tealium domains are not on this list.

Final Thoughts

Here are some key takeaways:

  • Most ad blockers require the user to opt-in to get a more aggressive setting.
  • The more aggressive ad blocking setting used, the more likely the site will break.
  • Website owners can use an ad block detector to ask the user to whitelist or disable ad blocking while the visit the site. You can even ask the visitor to use a different browser.
  • Tealium is not an ad vendor and does not provide an endpoint that returns ads or an iframe with ads inside.

Every site should be evaluated on an individual basis to understand how ad blockers are impacting the traffic and the user experience. What percentage of your website visitors are blocking tags.tiqcdn.com or what percentage do not allow tracking calls to collect.tealiumiq.com? What browsers are they using when this happens?

After you have this data, you can explore your options. You may need to install an ad blocker detector or find a simple workaround for a specific use case. If only 2% of your visitors use ad blockers, then implementing a workaround may not be worth it. But if a larger percentage of your traffic is affected, then it's worth the effort for a more robust solution.

Additional Resources

3 Kudos
Public