Ad Blocking on the Rise

Ad blocking has become the darling of discussion in conference rooms and around water coolers in both the agency and media worlds.

These discussions cover the spectrum of concerns. From the media placement camp, a fear of a worldwide crash in the digital ecosystem tops their list of worries.  People more entrenched in the data world are more concerned about losing their ability to collect and target the reams of digital data being collected today.  Wherever you stand on ad blocking, we all have to admit it is shaping up to be a major issue for 2016.

Why are we talking about Ad Blocking?

While blocking isn’t a new phenomenon (AdBlock+ was first released in 2006), it has experienced a sudden spike in adoption since 2013.

Ad Block Growth Rate

In the United States alone, there are 45 million active ad blockers.  That is a rise of 48 percent YOY in the 12 months preceding June 2015.  With this sudden rise in ad blocking, the digital advertising industry is facing three main problems.

One, with each new user who deploys some form of ad block technology, the pool of available inventory shrinks.  While this shrinkage might be microscopic on an individual level, the persistent growth of the technology will continue to erode inventory numbers and make some key markets (younger, male & tech-savvy in particular) harder to reach.

Two, ad blocking is not solely about blocking ads (a slight misnomer in common vernacular).  The majority of blockers allow users to also block tracking.  This tracking is the same technology that allows our industry to target the bride-to-be or the 35-year-old male who is in the market for a car.  Again, as the number of ad blocking-users increases, the data available and the accuracy of targeting will decrease.

Three, similar to the discussion about ad fraud that struck the industry in 2014, this is another very public fight that can hamper our advertisers’ trust in the industry.The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) released a study in Q3 of 2014 that showed over 34 percent of U.S. adults use ad blockers.  With the number of users looking to find refuge from online advertising on the rise, technology companies have responded with solutions.  Earlier in the year Apple released an update to their mobile iOS that enables ad blocking.  Apps like Crystal, Purify Blocker, 1Blocker and Blockr hit the app store and started to enable user blocking through Safari.  Coming in November, we can expect an update from Mozilla / Firefox that will introduce “tracking protection,” a tool that will actively block third-party page elements that are used to track users’ online activity.As long as the demand exists, we can expect to see more options arriving in the market that will enable users to limit their ad exposure and more tightly control their tracking.

Why is ad blocking on the rise?

Users offer four main reasons why they use ad blockers.

  1. To protect themselves against viruses
  2. To increase computer/device performance
  3. They just don’t like advertising
  4. They want to avoid distracting or content-covering advertising
In the industry’s drive to increase revenue, we have seen a rise in the volume of ads on websites and a push to more impactful (i.e. intrusive) advertising.  From the inclusion of more units on a page to auto-play video to larger, more page-dominant ad units; all of these things have driven a portion of the consumer base to find relief from advertising and directly into the arms of companies like AdBlock+.

What can we do?

As an industry, there are ways we can start limiting the impact of ad blocking. One, we can re-focus and double down on creative.  If our advertising campaigns are engaging and enjoyable, then users will not feel the need to block our clients’ messages.  Consider light file sizes to improve load speed and removing any audio auto-play elements from campaigns.

Two, we can limit over-exposure.  Whether it was after looking at product online or sitting through the fifth showing of the same video ad on Hulu, as users, we know the pain of overly repetitive ads.  Each and every campaign, particularly those employing re-targeting, should be limited by a frequency cap.

Three, work with sites that provide the content your customers and potential customers want to consume on a regular basis.  These sites tend to be more trusted and encourage a more positive user experience, allowing your ads to reach their intended audience.

Just as ad fraud issues are changing the interactive industry, so shall ad blocking.  If you have any questions about how ad blocking will potentially impact local online news media, feel free to reach out to MANSI Media.  As experts in the field, we will be happy to keep you up-to-date as the digital world continues to shift and move.

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