Put very simply, iOS9 did not have a whole bunch of features to write home about, other than allowing Safari to have an ad-blocker bolted on to it -- and that was widely tipped by commentators, including myself, as being the area where the release would make the greatest impact. And what an impact. Depending on what chart you look at, the Peace and Crystal apps are outselling popular games, such as Minecraft and Plague. The next few weeks will show whether this is a one-off, caused by the sudden availability of the new ad-blocking feature. If downloads go down, then we'll know it was a committed bunch of people who had been eagerly awaiting ad blocking and so were primed to download an app the moment it became available.
I have a feeling that this is partly the case -- clearly people were waiting for iOS 9 compatibility -- and also that this is a trend that will continue. It may not be in sufficient numbers to top AppAnnie's charts for many weeks consecutively, but blocking mobile display ads is a trend that is here to stay just as it is on desktop, although it will take a while until rates reach the same level in mobile as they are on desktop.
So at the risk of sounding repetitive, it is not a huge surprise that mobile users are switching off display advertising -- and to be honest, digital marketers should neither be overly surprised or worried. Banners and buttons don't really translate very well from the desktop to the mobile anyway, the screen is too small and ads look more spammy and intrusive.
Again, at the risk of sounding repetitive, if this week has not proven a wake-up call to mobile marketers of the need to immerse their brands in native and social, then I don't know what will. Sure, ads will still be popping up in free apps, away from the browser -- but again, ask yourselves when you're on a free app whether the ads look like a great opportunity to brand a new service or product or if they appear like a cheap, tacky distraction from the free game a user is trying to play.
The public is voting right now on the future of the experience they have when browsing the Web on a mobile, and it doesn't look good for display. The trick is clearly for marketers to get their content in to the news feeds and timelines of users' social media accounts and in the news flow of the content they are reading. Brands need to be able to tell a story and come up with something captivating to engage users long enough for them to become aware of the offering and hopefully move on to consideration. Rather than be flashing messages from the side, brands need to be part of the message. It's not as easy as simply throwing money at a mobile ad exchange to get in front of eyeballs but, with the extra effort, it should lead to a far deeper level of engagement.
If the warnings ahead of iOS 9 weren't convincing, the paid-for app download charts should be.
I think this problem is bigger than just display -- ad blockers look for domain signatures of large ad servers (DoubleClick, etc) and block all content originating from those domains. A native or pre-roll ad using a tracking pixel from an advertiser would also be blocked, which means your tracking goes out the window even if your ad is embedded on the publisher's domain...so I don't agree these other formats get away scot-free.