Mobile Ads: To Block Or Not To Block

According to GlobalWeb Index, in a report utilizing the results of a special GlobalWeb Index study among internet device owners in the USA, large numbers of digital consumers across North America and Europe have been installing ad-blocker software on their desktops

The mobile ad-blocking trend has been primarily an Asian phenomenon, though the study examines the current state of mobile ad-blocking in the USA and investigates whether the conditions exist for this trend to become mainstream among US digital consumers. In particular, focusing on

  • The attitudes of US digital consumers, both those who block ads and those who don’t, towards ad-blocking capabilities, online advertising and the ad- blocking industry
  • The level of awareness among US digital consumers concerning the availability and benefits of mobile ad-blocking software
  • How US ad-blocker users differ from non-users in their engagement with various forms of media

The Key Findings of the Study are summarized as:

  • Only 22% of current ad-blocker users are blocking ads on their smartphones (meaning only 15% of US internet device owners block ads on mobile)
  • Looking at only at those who have not blocked ads on a mobile, more than 6 in 10 state that they did not know that it was possible to do so
  • Ad-blocker users are most likely to state that ads are intrusive, they are irrelevant, or that there are simply too many of them
  • 1/3rd of smartphone owners say that they see too many ads when browsing the mobile internet and a large section of this group are currently unaware of mobile ad-blocking
  • Over 3/4 of those who are aware of the existence of mobile ad-blocking are unable to name an app or a browser which allows users to block ads on mobile
  • 1/2 of smartphone owners in the USA state that they would prefer to block all ads on their mobile device, and only one fifth of smartphone owners say they don’t mind seeing ads on their mobile if they are respectful

A major catalyst in the development of mobile ad-blocking came in 2015, following Apple’s announcement that the new iOS 9 would allow users to download ad-blocking extensions through the mobile Safari browser, says the report. The hype surrounding this event inevitably raised the profile of mobile ad-blocking.

Globally, ad-blocking on any device is still a trend which skews towards certain demographics,and the US is no exception, says the report. Respondents who report having used an ad-blocker in the last month see higher representation among the 25-34 age group. This group is also notably more likely to be male. (Male 58%, Female, 42%).

% of US Ad-Blockers


% Who Are Blockers











Source: GlobalWeb Index, May 2017 Base: 1,011 US Internet Users who own a smartphone, laptop, desktop PC or tablet aged 16-64’

Overall, those who have used an ad-blocker in the past month display a remarkably stronger inclination to resist ads, with as many as 1 in 3 recent ad-blockers saying they try to avoid ads wherever possible, says the report

Respondents were most likely to state that ad-overload, irrelevant content, intrusive formats and slow page load speeds motivate them to deploy an ad-blocker. Privacy concerns are certainly not insignificant, with around 3 in 10 US Ad-Blockers stating that they are concerned about ads compromising their online privacy, and 1 in 4 saying they don’t like ads which are personalized based on their browsing history.

Ad-Blocking Motivations (% of US Ad-Blocker Users who say they use ad-blockers for the following reasons)


% Influenced

Annoying or irrelevant




Too much screen space


Too slow downloading


Compromise privacy


Battery drain


Source: GlobalWeb Index, May 2017 Base

As the data demonstrates, says the report, there is little willingness or recognition on the part of many consumers to accept that ads, even if they are respectful, are at the core of free content online. Among smartphone owners, 1 in 2 state that they would prefer to block all ads on their mobile device. At the other end of the scale, though only 1 in 5 express that they don’t mind seeing ads on their mobile if they are respectful, this still amounts to a sizeable portion of the US online population.

In terms of which party decides the basis of “value exchange,” respondents tend to trust ad-blocker providers, concludes the report. 41% of respondents in the survey feel that ad-blocker providers are best suited to define and enforce the rules of respectable ads, reflecting a widespread distrust of the ad industry among those who have been subject to poor user experiences as a result of ad-overload and irrelevant or intrusive ads. Focusing specifically on those who do not want to see any ads on their mobile, this audience is 16% more likely than average to opt for an independent committee to oversee the definition of respectable ads, says the report.

% Of Smartphone Owners Who Strongly Or Somewhat Agree With The Following “Trust” Statements

Trust in Blocking

% of Respondents

Block completely on mobile


Trust ad-blocking providers


Trust independent committee


Trust industry


Source: GlobalWeb Index, May 2017 Base

For additional information from the complete report, please visit here.

1 comment about "Mobile Ads: To Block Or Not To Block".
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  1. Doc Searls from Customer Commons, July 11, 2017 at 11:22 a.m.

    Has anybody ever asked, "Do you want ads on your mobile device?" Meaning at all.

    Occasionally, when I speak to groups, I've ask for shows of hands in answer to that question. When I telll those holding their hands up to take them down if they are in the advertising business, the number always goes to zero.

    That's the norm. That's the lack of incentive that no amount of "relevant" or "interest based" advertising can ever satisfy.

    The advertising industry needs to face that simple fact.

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