Why Millennials Block Ads, In Their Own Words

An eMarketer story last year reported that two in three Millennials block ads.

As a journalist, I benefit from publishers showing ads. But as a Millennial, I’m curious about blocking.

So last week, I added an ad-blocking browser extension. Setup was easy. Before I finished brushing my teeth, I was enjoying the New York Times homepage. The experience was lush: beautiful columns of news were uninterrupted by banners or videos.

I don’t think I’ll keep the extension forever. In fact, I already miss those weird Amazon ads that follow me to Facebook (“Felicia, we think you’d like these hand soaps based on your purchase of ‘Mrs. Meyers, BASIL SCENT, 33 Oz.’”) But trying out the blocker made me want to hear why other Millennials block.

Are they interested in publishers’ stakes in advertising? Millennials take a lot of flak (try typing “Millennials are” into Google) for not caring about the world around them, so I wanted to hear their side. And looking at multiple sides of this issue that costs publishers $22 billion in revenue (according to the Adobe and PageFair study) couldn't hurt.

Below are two lightly edited conversations with Millennials (via Facebook) on why they block (or don’t).

Alex Ransom, 19

Alex has used in-browser pop-up blockers for four or five years within Google Chrome.

Why do you use a pop-up blocker? More than anything, it's nice to know that that extra layer of protection is there. Part of the fun of going on the Internet is seeing the strange, interesting places it can take you, but when you partake in that sort of virtual spelunking, there's always a possibility that you'll stumble upon a Web page that's loaded with spam, or sometimes  even worse things.

Do you support sites you like? My family pays for a few premium Web sites that I use the login info for, and I could see myself paying for them myself if needed. But if a system could be reached where the ads on a site were more subtle -- maybe even to the point where they were barely noticeable, although I don't know how that would work -- and the consumer didn't have to pay for access to that site, that would be a preferable set-up.

Do you have any suggestions for marketers on making ads better? If I had any suggestions for marketers, it would be to stop any ads that hinder the speed and ease of your browsing. The Internet is a big, weird place to search and discover, and it's always annoying when an advertisement blocks or slows that exploratory freedom. I usually end up feeling more resentment toward whatever product is being advertised in those situations than anything else.

Kevin Valliere, 25

Kevin has used ad blockers on his laptop for two years.

Do you find other ways to support sites you like? I try to donate -- I'm in a decent spot in my life where I can afford to give to Web sites, so I definitely make an effort for the Web sites who I know rely on that ad money. In general, I've tried in the last few months to be more cognizant of which sites are showing me ads to be obtrusive versus showing me ads to support a valuable, but free, service. I like a free Internet, and if that means putting up with ads that aren't intentionally misleading or potentially damaging, then so be it.

For the majority of the time I've used ad blockers, I really didn't think at all about how I might be negatively impacting the sites I valued most. I think recently there's been more of a push for "ethical" ad blocking, if that can really exist, and I like the recognition of service that comes with that for Web sites.

Do you think there will be as many ads on the Internet in five years? I think ads may look different in five years, especially as companies start to find ways around ad blockers, but I have no doubt they'll be around. And, like I said, I'm a huge fan of a free Internet. If more small Web sites can keep existing by advertising, then I can live with that.

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13 comments about "Why Millennials Block Ads, In Their Own Words".
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  1. Ned Newhouse from Conde Nast , February 5, 2016 at 10:46 a.m.

    So Alex 19 says, "If I had any suggestions for marketers, it would be to stop any ads that hinder the speed and ease of your browsing." So in order to get paid for advertising MRC rules insist on a measurement of 1 sec for the ad.  What a terrific business bind these rules put the publisher in, while at the same time pissing off the consumer.  

  2. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, February 5, 2016 at 11:27 a.m.

    Ned, I agree with you, but in the final analysis, isn't it up to the publisher to control how ads are placed on his/her website--or is programmatic buying destroying this rather basic element of publishing and leaving a state of chaos in its wake?

  3. Ned Newhouse from Conde Nast replied, February 5, 2016 at 12:06 p.m.

    Thanks Ed, but no not really.  Position aside no.  And where on the page tends to be at the top creating some value for driving revenue, it has to be in our days of MRC, depressed CPMs and crappy supplied creative that the consumer doesnt value.  Programmatic or not, most times we get an ad tag, so we dont even seeing the creative and all the js loaded into to that slows down the experience greatly, for consumers to say, "you see how much faster the page loads without ads?"  So what is the solution instead of me just bitching? The overdependency of targeting and wanting the perfect impression to only show some inert ad, will never create a vibrant industry has a shot of success until all CMOs and advertisers do their part of investing, testing, spending on messages that the consumer doesnt want to block, because they find it worthy. If you use chopped cardboard in your meatloaf instead of meat along with top notch ingredients, it still tastes like crap.  The second part of your question, Programmatic has the potential to be a very useful tool.  The problem is advertisers are using it as a way to drive cpms downs, vs segmenting the audience and changing the messaging to inspire that consumer segment.  

  4. Matt Cooper from Addroid, February 5, 2016 at 1:44 p.m.

    Hey Ned, on the topic of faster page-loads as far as I know DFP supports asynchronous pages loading. From thier own support page, "This means that users will be able to load the content of your pages, even if they’re having trouble loading the ads." I never understood why in 2016 that this is still an issue. back to the post though, I always felt like banners are just 50% of the reason people use ad blocks. The other 50% is simply not wanting to look at YouTube preroll. As an indusrty what can we do about that? Not much :/

  5. Randall Tinfow from CLICK-VIDEO LLC replied, February 8, 2016 at 10:58 a.m.

    Instagram is now accepting 60 second ads.  Let's see how users appreciate that response to their needs and desires.  

  6. Christian Sandlin from SEVEN Networks, February 5, 2016 at 3:59 p.m.

    The biggest reason people are using ad blockers on their phones isn’t entitlement. The fact is that the transaction between users, sites, and advertisers doesn’t exist in harmony. Forbes just posted their “30 Under 30” article and online readers were prompted to turn their ad blockers to read the article. Those that did got infected with malware. There are no longer safe havens anymore, just like there aren’t really “acceptable ads”. We compete with ABP on the Android market with our app, AdClear, and it is banned from google play because it blocks ads within apps. Apps are still subject to harmful advertising networks that google, yahoo, etc. lead. So no, consumers aren’t placed against publishers. Publishers are too lazy to provide a safe experience to someone interested in even glancing at their page. If someone got a cold from looking at a newspaper, they’d never read it again.

  7. Robert Goldfluss from xo communications, February 5, 2016 at 4:27 p.m.

    We're looking at possibly providing a "click  to live agent" icon on banner ads and  videos so visitors can connect directly with a live agent thru our network backbone instead of spending way too much time filling out forms, downloading reams of information, or waiting for e-mail response.

    The mobile users will love this. Also, an excellent means of capturing audience stats and measure campaign effectiveness. Anyone interested, please let me know.

  8. Craig Mcdaniel from Sweepstakes Today LLC, February 5, 2016 at 5:51 p.m.

    I disagree with much that has been said.  We publish "ADS" in coded text link form for many of the Fortune 500 companies. For 13 years now, NOT ONE AS BEEN BLOCKED. Never once has one of our ads we published has been blocked or could they legally be done.  We do not depend upon a banner to bring the reader and sponsor together. Telling the reader what they are about to click on to, the sponsor, the sweepstakes or contest, the basic rules and prizes and information is far more valueable than a banner to the reader. We are 100 percent committed to honesty and integrity in telling why a member would like to enter a sponsor's sweepstakes. Better yet, we can direct through the link a pathway to a video sweepstakes and even on mobile.

    Yet the real problem behind online ads is the distribution and presentation to the websites.  The ad agency industry is totally adicted to using banner ads to delivery their client's message.  Now though banners are being block and the cry of foul is being heard.  In one of the comments the one gentleman said that the ad industry would figure out how to get around ad blocking.  Well we have published thousands of ads and never been blocked. Nor can we be blocked legally. Even better we can publish a ad at a far lower cost than banners.

    You want a solution, try our coded text links. They will not be blocked.

  9. Ned Newhouse from Conde Nast , February 5, 2016 at 8:01 p.m.

    Many business cannot afford to just run text link and stay afloat. People don't hate banners they hate the creative. 

  10. Ned Newhouse from Conde Nast , February 5, 2016 at 10:12 p.m.

    Hey Matt good to hear from you. I am versed in DFPs asynchronous page loading.  To me that is a band aid that doesnt cover the wound from result of too much JS and round trips. You want to get paid and make the MRC metric so we need limits on time or weight. 

  11. Randall Tinfow from CLICK-VIDEO LLC replied, February 8, 2016 at 11:06 a.m.

    Agree on weight.  I've heard comments like this, "I know the limit is 50k, but we can justify 150k for this breakthrough creative."  A handful of those and you're loading 2MB in 30+ server calls.

    There are many ways to aggregate/simplify server calls.   

  12. Craig Mcdaniel from Sweepstakes Today LLC, February 6, 2016 at 2:02 a.m.

    Ned, We have run close to 2 billion coded text link pages. The banner is not only not needed but is the problem for slowing down the page load speed.  However it was Google and DoubleClick who said that they will only work with banners and not text link only ads. I had this discussion with Google 11 years ago. Of course text link works great in their search engines. But their big money comes from banners.

    My position is I don't want the banners to be blocked. But what I do want is to be able to get the coded text link from Google, Bing and others for sweepstakes.  i would agree to strick control of the text link. I would be doing the ad market a great service when all said and done.

  13. Craig Mcdaniel from Sweepstakes Today LLC, February 6, 2016 at 2:12 a.m.

    What has not been brought up is contents could be brocked as well.  Some smart sucker could create an app or malware to block Felicia or any other story writer they didn't like. They would call this action a boycott.  We haven't seen anything like this yet to happen but it is possible. A variation of this does happen in China.  That's is really scary to me.