Who's Afraid of Ad Blocking?

As it turns out, just about everyone.

Publishers. Marketers. Agencies. Industry trade associations including the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A's). And I’m sure there are more.

I would hazard to guess that just about everyone but consumers, the ad blocking companies themselves and mobile carriers are afraid of ad blocking.

If ad tech companies and Google aren’t as vocal about ad blocking, perhaps they should be. Billions of dollars run through their platforms. Billions.

Remember that PageFair and Adobe report released in August 2015? It estimated a $21.8 billion loss in ad revenues globally in 2015 due to ad blocking; projected the global cost of ad blocking would reach $41.4 billion by 2016; and projected that in the U.S., the cost would reach $10.7 billion in 2015 and $20.3 billion in 2016.  That same research forecast that Google lost $6.6 billion in global revenue due to ad blocking. 



And Fractl and Moz said 63% of U.S. millennials are using ad blockers. That report was released in July 2015.  What might that percentage be right now?

Ad Blocking in the U.K.

In the U.K., Pivotl, a global business intelligence and data firm, reported on new IAB data that 22% of adults now use ad blocking software, up from 18% in October.

That same IAB data shows that in the U.K.:

-- 47% of 18- to 24-year-olds have used ad-blocking software.  

-- Among those currently using ad-blocking software, 72% do so on laptops and 41% on desktops. That’s compared to 26% on smartphones and 21% on tablets. And, 64% of all those using ad blockers have received a notification from a website asking them to turn it off. 

-- In addition, 54% said they would turn off ad blockers if it was the only way to access content. Among 18- to 24-year-olds, 73% said they would.

-- And 45% of consumers said they'd be less likely to block ads if ads didn’t interfere with what they were doing -- the most common reason given.

The rise in ad blocking comes just as Apple begins enabling mobile ad-blocking apps, and U.K. mobile carrier Three rolls out network-wide ad blocking to lower the amount of users’ data allowance that’s wasted on ads. Three, by the way, has about 80 million customers.

If you’re a mobile carrier, you’re thrilled with ad blockers, because anything that might slow a consumer’s use of video, games, downloads of music and other content is deadly. Consumers want it now, and fast. And carriers aren't scared. They're going to use ad blockers to their advantage.

Ad blocking in France and Germany

In France and Germany, the ad-blocking problem is worse. According to research by comScore and Sourcepoint published by eMarketer in September 2015, 36.1% of 18 to 24-year-olds in France use ad blockers, while 34.8% do so in Germany. The percentage was just 16.2% for the U.S. Go figure. But those percentages have most likely increased by now, and they were for desktop ad blocking, not mobile.

What’s a Publisher To Do?

Cry? Scream? Run for the hills?

Ad blocking is forcing publishers to suss out new and even more creative ways to generate revenue. Even Google is testing a subscription to allow consumers  to support publishers without ads. Advertisers are busily working with publishers to come up with new creative formats, compelling content -- and definitely native content. 

Meanwhile, publishers that rely on advertising -- and let’s face it, most of them do -- are asking consumers to turn off their blockers before accessing content. I don’t know: If you’re asked to turn off your blocker, will you? (Full disclosure: I don’t use ad blockers).

Some observers expect more publishers to adopt pay walls and subscription models and experiment with in-app purchases. Some say publishers may even gravitate to for-pay models for single articles via mobile payments.

Some publishers are throwing up their hands and paying ad blocking software developers "to whitelist their sites so advertising passes through the filters and is displayed," writes Dave Reed, managing director of EMEA at MediaMath in a blog post for the IAB U.K.

Others, like The Guardian, are asking users of ad blockers to pay for a  subscription to the site. Ironically these messages to readers are frequently blocked by ad blocking software!

New York Times Co. CEO Mark Thompson recently suggested a possible ban on Times access for readers who use ad-blocking software. 

Ironically, The Times suggested the use of ad blockers in a piece published on Feb. 24 entitled “Tips and Myths About Extending Smartphone Battery Life.”  The article said that when consumers browse the Web, their smartphones use up a lot of power when they download mobile ads on websites. Thus,  "Installing an ad blocker will greatly extend battery life."

The guide goes on to say that typical battery tests on both an iPhone 6s and a Moto X Pure are more efficient with software such as 1Blocker and Ghostery installed. 

Here’s editorial content in The New York Times suggesting that consumers will extend their battery life if they use ad blockers! Well, you can’t accuse the Times of mixing business with editorial.

Ad blockers are causing “considerable damage to the free web... encouraging consumers to unwittingly stifle the very content they seek,” writes Dave Reed in that IAB U.K. blog post. Great point and well-put, Reed.

6 comments about "Who's Afraid of Ad Blocking?".
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  1. Richard Reisman from Teleshuttle Corporation, March 1, 2016 at 12:15 p.m.

    I suggest the real answer is to fundamentally re-think the publisher-consumer value proposition — as in my post Ad-blocking -- Kicking and Screaming to Win-Win Value Propositions [at], and more broadly and deeply in Patron-izing Journalism -- Beyond Paywalls, Meters, and Membership []

    From the first:


    "The trend seems to clearly require that publishers reconsider their value propositions, and make them more transparent, personalized, and win-win.


    "Any move in that direction will bring publishers closer to still more advanced models like FairPay, which apply adaptive processes to find personalized, win-win value propositions. Instead of arbitrary fixed prices for all you can eat (regardless of whether you eat a lot or a little in any given period), FairPay seeks prices that dynamically adapt to individual, time-varying usage patterns -- and the widely varying value-in-context that is received by each consumer at each point in time. Such prices are based on a new kind of value metering that acts as a flexible guide, not an oppressive sledgehammer. And it is a value meter that runs in both directions -- charges for value received, and credits for value given (such as in the form of ad viewing, personal data that can be sold, viral promotion, user-generated content, etc.). All of this is based on a win-win balance of powers. The Internet has leveled the playing field, and the sooner suppliers recognize that, the better for all of us. More about how this can work is in my recent post Patron-izing Journalism -- Beyond Paywalls, Meters, and Membership.

  2. Brian Nakamoto from Tightrope Interactive, Inc., March 1, 2016 at 4:44 p.m.

    Does anyone know when the final specs for IAB's LEAN will be available?


  3. Tobi Elkin from MediaPost replied, March 2, 2016 at 10:22 a.m.

    Brian, I don't know the timing of specs for the IAB's LEAN but will try to find out.

  4. Tobi Elkin from MediaPost replied, March 2, 2016 at 10:25 a.m.

    Richard, I agree--the consumer/publisher value proposition needs to be re-thought, but also new revenue models are needed. Publishers know their audiences/readers the best and if they don't have good intelligence about their preferences and what they're willing to put up with or accomodate or pay for, they need it. Now.

  5. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, March 2, 2016 at 10:57 a.m.

    Tobi, while it is obvious that the consumer wants "better" content----consumers always do---- and this need may impell some to disable their ad blockers to gain access to a few selected sites from time to time, this is more of a bandaid solution to the real problem---the disruptive impact of helter-skelter ad scheduling and insertion. Is it realistic to expect that the user who has an an blocker will disable it every time a favored site is accessed---unless the barrage of disruptive ads on that site is always kept in check and the user can look at content without constant interference? I'm afraid that it may be too late for this ploy to work---even if one can define "better content" and the various publishers move to provide it. How long will that take? The same plaint could be made for TV. "Why can't the TV networks offer "better" shows?", then, maybe, there would be a little less commercial zapping. Possibly true but hardly actionable and what exactly is a "better" show---a documentary about how penguins survive their icy climate or, maybe, a reality dance contest or a sci-fi thriller complete with massive doses of "special effects"?

  6. Brian Nakamoto from Tightrope Interactive, Inc., March 2, 2016 at 2:48 p.m.

    Thanks Tobi!

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