Widespread adoption of technologies designed to block digital advertising has major implications for advertisers, content publishers, and consumers, according to a new research report from Adobe (CMO.com’s parent company) and Dublin-based PageFair.
The report, “Adblocking Goes Mainstream” (available below), tracks the growing use of so-called adblockers, and the findings—for digital marketers, at least—are distressing.
The research reveals that the number of people with adblocking software installed globally has increased 69% in the past 12 months, to approximately 144 million active users (4.9% of all Internet users). Of the U.S. Internet users polled, 27.6% said they employ adblock software when browsing. The main users of adblocking in the U.S. are 18- to 29-year-olds—among the most desirable demographic for advertisers—41% of whom claim to use adblock software. The study concludes, as well, that ad format matters: More than 60% of adblockers polled expressed some receptiveness to viewing text, still-image, and skippable preroll ads.
Historically, advertising has subsidized content creation and delivery, and consumers have accepted this trade-off. For access to high-quality content (say, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, etc.) or services (such as Facebook or Google), consumers have been willing to tolerate advertising and provide information about their interests. In the digital age, media companies have adjusted the levers of paid vs. ad-subsidized content, with varying results, yet the value exchange has held. Consumers provide some combination of cash and information, and businesses connect them with entertainment, news, services, and other people.
Adblockers threaten to fundamentally overturn this model, and advertisers and media companies have been willing accomplices in the disruption. By using increasingly invasive tactics and ad creative designed to “cut through the clutter,” advertisers spook, annoy, frustrate, and otherwise make enemies of the consumers they’re trying to engage. No wonder the use of adblockers is increasing.
So what does it all mean? Advertisers need to stop turning off viewers and site visitors with second-rate ad experiences. Media companies need to closely monitor third-party creative sold through indirect channels and remind consumers of their contribution to the advertising-for-content value exchange. Further, content publishers and distributors can give their audiences the option of disabling adblockers or upgrading to a paid subscription. One of the largest media companies in the world recently revealed that nearly 70% of video viewers willingly turned off their adblockers when provided with information about how these technologies limit the company’s ability to develop the programming viewers enjoy.
Here are some of the key insights from report:
- Google Chrome is bringing adblocking to the masses and seeing the largest increase of adblockers, up by 96%, to approximately 86 million monthly active users between Q2 2013 and Q2 2014.
- Share of ads blocked by “end-user installed” browsers is 4.7 times higher than by “preinstalled” browsers.
- Poland, Sweden, Denmark, and Greece are leading the way, with an average of 24% of their online populations using adblocking software in Q2 2014.
- Countries including Japan, Spain, China, and Italy are catching up, with their percentages of online populations that use adblock plug-ins growing as much as 134% over the past 12 months.
- Adblock adoption is extremely high in certain demographics, with 54% of male survey respondents between 18 and 29 years old saying they use adblocking software.
- There is an ongoing struggle between the “pay” and “free” content models, where 80% of survey respondents are unwilling to pay for ad-free content; meanwhile, 61% of those same respondents were “completely unwilling” to see ads which support free content.
Here is the full report: