Study Finds Consumers Can Be Convinced To Uninstall Ad Blockers

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) on Tuesday released the findings of a new report which reveals that two-thirds of U.S. consumers using ad blockers could be convinced to uninstall their ad blocking software on their computers.

The report, “Ad Blocking: Who Blocks Ads, Why, and How to Win Them Back,” conducted by C3Research, surveyed nearly 1,300 computer users and 201 mobile users in the U.S., including a mix of those who employ ad blockers and those who don’t. The report reveals that the top methods for influencing Web visitors to turn off blockers on their computers include:

  • Preventing access to content alongside a notice stating that content is blocked because of the use of an ad blocker.
  • Ensuring that ads do not have auto-play audio or video in environments where they aren’t anticipated by consumers.
  • Making certain that ads do not block content.
  • Safeguarding users from ads infected with malware/viruses.
  • Guaranteeing that ads do not slow down browsing.

Former users of ad blockers also said that lacking access to content was their top reason for disabling the software.

The study's findings confirmed that consumers -- whether currently blocking ads or not -- are most annoyed by ads that delay or obscure access to Web site content. Long-form video ads that run before short videos were the next most irritating to users, followed by ads that traveled with visitors as they scrolled down a Web page.

Respondents who use ad blockers said that the adoption of LEAN (light, encrypted, AdChoice-supported, and non-invasive ads) standards, which address some of the tactics outlined above, would have the greatest influence in getting them to turn off ad blockers. For instance, men ages 18 to 34, who are the main ad-blocking demographic on desktops, are also the group most inclined to turn off blocking if sites adhere to LEAN standards.

"The study directly correlates that the LEAN principles have the greatest impact on consumer happiness," Alanna Gombert, senior vice president, technology and ad operations, IAB, and general manager, IAB Tech Lab, told Real-Time Daily in an email.  "Ads that cover content, disruptive ads that flash or physically try to grab user attention were all viewed negatively by the consumers. The data also confirmed new LEAN criteria, such as frequency capping and pixel management, as important additions."

The research also found that ad-blocker users and non-users had differing concerns.

Users of ad blockers prioritize the ability to browse online with limited interruptions and prefer Web sites with a streamlined interface. They’re more annoyed than most by Web advertising and are more likely to describe themselves as easily distracted by ads.

Non-users, particularly those who are considering installing an ad blocker, are more concerned about getting viruses while browsing online.

One of the study’s surprising results was that while 40% of users believed they were using ad blockers on their computers, only one in four (26%) actually used the software on their PCs. The rest confused built-in pop-up blockers and security software with ad blockers. These stats "mean that self-reported ad blocking rates may be lower than originally expected due to misidentification of the software," Gombert noted.

In addition, while a quarter of consumers use ad blockers on their PCs, just 15% use them on their smartphones.

“The next step in bringing ad-blocking consumers back into the fold is the establishment of a LEAN scoring system, which will allow for user experience to be measured against clear-cut benchmarks,” stated Gombert.  She said the IAB Tech Lab is on track to provide a LEAN scoring algorithm and publish initial LEAN scorecard recommendations by the end of this year.

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