Ad blocking continues to spread among consumers, up 48% in 2015 to 45 million people who have installed these devices on their desktops, according to eMarketer. This figure is projected to reach 63 million by the end of the year and 77 million in 2017.
Obviously ad blocking isn't going away anytime soon. But a new report from Omnicom Media Group (OMG) finds that publishers and advertisers can take steps to curtail their usage.
The report found that many ad-blocking users don’t dislike all advertising but rather a specific format, namely popups. Some 44% of those polled associate ad blocking mostly with blocking pop-up advertising.
"Ad blocking as a phenomenon is likely here to stay in some fashion, but there are ways to reduce consumers’ motivations for using ad blockers, and therefore minimize its impact," says Pamela Marsh, director, primary research and insights, OMG.
Consumers are motivated to avoid ads that interrupt their browsing experience. Nearly half (45%) install ad blockers to avoid dealing with pop-up ads, 40% do not want to be "bombarded" with ads, and 30% want to block pre-roll ads that prevent access to content.
"Our research found no significant differences between generational cohorts, such as Millennials and Boomers, when it comes to blocking ads.” says Priscilla Aydin, associate director, primary research and insights, OMG.
Nearly two in three (63%) consumers are aware of ad blockers, and awareness leads to action. Seven in 10 installed an ad blocker immediately after hearing about it. Of those 40% that have installed an ad blocker, 58% did so on their desktop, 18% via mobile device, and 11% on their tablet. The vast majority (65%) say they saw an improved user experience after using ad blockers and 70% would recommend them to friends and family.
Ad blocking isn't inevitable. For one, consumers like ads if they are enjoyable. One in four (26%) are less motivated to block entertaining ads. Consumers also want to control their experiences. More than half (52%) accept skippable ads versus 28% who accept unskippable ads.
Consumers realize that there's no free lunch. They are worried about the economic cost of ad blockers on publishers and content providers and 28% would avoid ad blockers if they had to pay for ones that are currently free or had to pay more for those that now charge a fee. "There are opportunities to motivate them to want to disable or uninstall ad blockers," says Aydin.
If consumers perceive a positive value exchange with websites, most are willing to go back to an ad-centric experience. In fact, consumers can be motivated to not only turn off their ad blockers, but will also disable them. Among those factors that would entice them to disable ad blockers, 28% would do so if the blockers slowed down their browsing speed, 24% if the ad blocker allows advertisements via payment, and 23% if they trusted websites to not serve annoying ads.
One in four (25%) would uninstall ad blockers and two in three would disable them, under certain circumstances.
Consumers would disable their ad blockers if the website promised non-intrusive ads (35%), if ad blockers prevented access to content (19%) and in order to access content on sites with ads (13%).
“Ultimately, when it comes to curating a positive experience, there is a two to one ratio for where consumers say the responsibility falls,” says Marsh. Half of consumers (48%) say websites hold most of the responsibility versus 28% who say advertisers and 24% who believe consumers themselves are responsible.
Yet, everyone needs to adjust their involvement, the OMG report states. Publishers need to do a better job of conveying the perceived value exchange, as well as provide better communication, transparency, and safeguard consumers' privacy. At the same time, advertisers need to advocate for a cleaner digital experience as well as listen to consumers' preferences for ad content and format.
Marketers need to understand consumers’ desires and wants and work to provide that to consumers, says Aydin. "Whether the ad formats are skippable or unskippable, listen to the consumer, be transparent and understand what resonates for them." Such changes need to happen sooner rather than later, adds Marsh.
The study queried 1,000 people online, including a sub-sample of 250 ad block users in March and May 2016.