Commentary

Mobile App Ad Blocking Skyrocketing, Forcing Brands To Rethink Advertising

At least 419 million people are blocking ads on smartphones -- including Facebook, but excluding content-blocking apps, in-app ad blockers, and opt-in browser ad blockers, according to a study released Tuesday.

The move will have app makers rethink how they will address search and advertising with mobile applications. PageFair has released a report titled Adblocking Goes Mobile, which estimates there are twice as many mobile ad blockers as desktop ad blockers. Twenty-two percent of the world’s 1.9 billion smartphone users block ads on the mobile Web.

Mobile ad blocking is more popular in emerging markets such as China, India, Pakistan and Indonesia, where 36% of smartphone users in Asia-Pacific block ads on the mobile Web.

The biggest issue for search marketers is that browsers can now block in-app ads.

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Mobile ad blocking is less developed in North America and Europe. In March 2016 there were 14 million monthly active users of ad-blocking browsers in Europe and North America, where 4.9 million content blocking and in-app ad-blocking apps were downloaded from app stores since September 2014.

One way to reinvent search and advertising within apps involves discounts and specials within mapping applications such as Google's recent move to use beacons and ask individuals to opt-in.

Another is Microsoft Bing's position to put the advertising in its own bucket within the app. The potential rise of ad blocking in apps prompted Bing to reinvent the way it viewed ads in its mobile app. Advertising in Bing's app relies on Near By Deals as a way to advertise specials and discounts based on location.

Apps are now available to block third-party ads in apps like Spotify, Apple News or CNN. These apps also block ads in any installed browsers for devices running iOS and Android.

The PageFair study reports that most in-app ad-blocking apps operate with an HTTP Proxy that works only on WiFi connections.

Some in-app ad-blocking apps operate a VPN, which works on both WiFi and cellular connections. And while in-app ad-blocking apps have previously been banned for violating PlayStore policies, VPN-based ad-blocking apps are getting around these rules, according to the report.

It's no surprise that the PageFair report predicts ad-blocking browsers will continue to grow wherever data costs are high. Wireless carriers will attempt to remain competitive and reduce costs for their subscribers, and unless the bandwidth cost of current advertising is addressed, the ad-funded digital media industry will never get a chance to grow in developing economies.

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