Commentary

Ad Blocking Wanes, Though Ad Relevance Is Still A Top Complaint

Ad-blocking has been a source of ire for digital publishers for years. But fewer consumers are using the software as websites adopt less intrusive advertising formats that don't annoy readers.

The lower adoption rate is good for publishers, even as they work to diversify their revenue away from online display advertising.

The portion of U.S. consumers who said they use an ad blocker this year fell from 52% in 2016 to 41%, according to a study by marketing technology company AudienceProject. The company recently surveyed 14,000 consumers in the U.S., U.K., Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland to gain more insights about global ad-blocking trends.

AudienceProject's methods of detecting ad blockers helped to confirm the decline in their usage. The percentage of website sessions using ad blockers this year slipped to 18% from 23% four years ago.

Those trends are positive for publishers, though they need to be mindful many people still complain about ad relevance. Half of U.S. consumers said online ads aren't relevant, while another 32% felt neutral about them. Only 15% said ads were relevant.

Those consumer attitudes may indicate that audience-driven targeting is still a challenge. Stricter privacy rules may become a bigger impediment to tracking readers, based on their browsing habits. However, publishers can still help their advertisers with contextual targeting — a key advantage that doesn't require invasive tracking methods.

“Brand perception is increasingly affected by where brands are advertising," according to AudienceProject's report. "In most countries, around one-third of the online population express that ads shown next to relevant content have a positive effect on their brand perception.”

Any improvements that publishers can provide in the consumer experience, including better ad targeting, can help to support their ad sales efforts and reduce the likelihood readers resort to using ad-blocking software.

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