So first the bad news. If you're out there trying to raise awareness about display, the latest figures are pretty depressing. An average of just over one in five adult Internet users now block ads with a skew toward males -- nearly one in three men have switched off ads. As for millennials, the news only gets worse. More than half of internet users ages 18 to 24 have downloaded ad-blocking software, compared to an average of 34% for 25- to-35-year-olds. When it comes to swinging the software on and using it, the rate drop to just under a half -- 47% -- of 18- to-24-year-olds and 22% of 25- to 34-year-olds.
Whichever way you look at it, it's pretty dire. If you're trying to reach those 18-24 years old you can safely assume half your market has switched off ads and if you're trying to target males in that age group you can safely assume the figure is higher. And forget the bleeding hearts, the overwhelming main reason for ad blocking for one in two blockers is to block all ads, not just certain types of ads.
That's pretty depressing, but here's some good news. Read this next line slowly because it could be the salvation of display. One in two people who block ads would disable an ad blocker to read content on either some sites or their favourite sites. One in six say they have already done so.
The industry can go on about ad formats that get in the way, and there's a good conversation to be had there, but it's missing the main point. Half of those who currently block ads are open to disabling their software to access the content they care about most. Interestingly, it's pretty much an even split between men and women, although men tend to block more. Typically this content will come, I'm guessing, from a responsible publisher that doesn't splatter the screen with distracting ads or blare out advertising videos the second you open one of their pages.
In other words, if responsible, decent publishers were to challenge the ad blockers, a half would be open to disable their software to consume quality content. The fact that only one in six have so far done so reflects that only around a third of those surveyed by the IAB have ever come across the message saying they cannot look at content unless they disable their blocker. If this sensible precaution were more widely adopted, it would be pushing against an open door for a half of all blockers.
Content is the key here because -- I'm sorry to report to advertisers and publishers -- only 3% of those surveyed felt bad about gaining free content without consuming ads and only 3% switched off a blocker because they missed the ads. So there is no love of ads to call on and there is no moral conscience to appeal to. No education will help and talk about less intrusive ads may be helpful but skirts around the main issue.
There are only two reasons why people switch off ad blockers. Strangely enough, the main one for one in three is that they have switched to a new device and haven't download an ad blocker and the second is the appeal of content that cannot be accessed unless ads are accepted.
So publishers, come on. What on earth could you be waiting for? You have nothing to lose from banning digital shop lifters because they earn you no money in the first place. There can only be a net gain from banning the blockers and a staggering one in two blockers are open to dropping their guard to get that content. I'm hoping common sense has just become a little more common?