Is the rise of ad-blockers a threat to display advertisers?

The recent release of iOS 9 has caused a lot of talk about the increased use of ad-blocking technologies.
In today’s article, we’ll explore the implications and impact on advertising campaigns.

Firstly, what is ad-blocking?

Ad-blocking software is a means to improve one’s browsing experience – whether on desktop on mobile devices – by filtering out (aka removing) all advertisements present on a webpage.
This is done through adding a browser extension, such as AdBlock Chrome extension, or mobile applications such as Purify and Crystal.

Why would people want to block ads?

There are a few reasons as to why someone who want to block ads from showing on their screens. Here are, what I think are the main reasons:

  • Distraction
    Advertising can be very effective, we all know that. But users have always been less receptive if known to be targeted. It’s like when you enter a clothing shop, browsing through the various product shelves and a sales rep comes to you every 5 minutes to ask if you need help or if you are aware of whatever sale they are currently running. To some, this is annoying, and ad-blocking software is their virtual way of hiding from the pesty staff.
  • Irrelevancy
    Successful advertising campaigns are well-thought through and have precise targeting settings.
    It is in everyone’s interest to show relevant ads: to the user who sees something they’re actually interested in, and to the advertiser who will consequently see a better return on their investment.
    Sadly, there are still too many online ad campaigns with either bad targeting or mass targeting. This doesn’t appeal to everyone and, in their defense, doesn’t really appeal to me despite being an advertiser.
  • Website loading speed
    Most advertising networks are good at compressing the banner ads, and have fast servers to ensure the loading time of their ads is as fast as possible.
    However, a webpage with 5 different image banner ads will still take longer to load than the same page with no ads.
    This reason is even more valid for mobile browsing, where some of the mobile carriers still offer terrible Internet speed.
  • Privacy
    There are generally concerns about privacy online and ad networks do install cookies on your computer to track performance. This is how we know if users who have seen one of our ads have ended up buying a product on our website. Advertising gets smarter and user profiling is a big part of it.

So should advertisers worry?

I don’t believe they should, at least for now. Here are a number of points which should be accounted for when answering this question:

  1. According to Business Insider, the use of ad blocking software has been increasing exponentially since 2013. Here’s a snapshot of estimated monthly active users.
    use of ad blocking

    While this means the reach of your advertising campaigns may slowly decrease, it is far from being at alarming levels.
    To put things in perspective, we are looking at about 200 million users of ad-blocking software (as of today), out of an estimated 3.2 Billion Internet users worldwide. That’s about 6%, which means 94% of the online population can still be reached through display advertising.

  2. With less ads showing and a stable (if not growing) advertising competition, we may see – in theory – CPCs/CPM increase. But other greater factors are at play here (growing global internet population, growing number of online advertisers, faster browsing, etc) which means ad-blockers probably won’t impact your performance.
  3. Ad blockers are not the standard feature in any browser nor iOS 9. The great majority of users are technically illiterate and will not activate ad-blockers in their settings, or upgrade their browser from Internet Explorer to Chrome or Firefox, then install an extension.
  4. According to Digital Strategy Consulting, “When Apple introduced its mobile ad platform back in 2010, it vowed to capture 50% of the market. Five years on and iAds generates just under 4% of US mobile ad revenue, compared to Android’s 44%.”.
    Apple claims that blocking ads will deliver a better browsing experience, but let’s be real here. Their main objective is to favour iAds over rival networks, to the expense of user experience.
  5. There are other ways to reach out to your target audience, anyway, via email marketing campaigns, social media marketing, etc
    Display advertising is never your only traffic and sales avenue.
  6. Seth Godin was right in saying that “People have been blocking ads forever. By ignoring them.
  7. Last but not least, don’t forget that the reason why most of the content remains freely available online is because publishers earn their money via advertising.
    People don’t want to pay for content, yet do not want to see ads which make that content available for free. On that basis, should ad-blockers ever become a real issue to the advertising industry, new ways of targeting your audience will appear. Some publisher websites have already started implementing ways to hide their content ad-blocking technology users, notifying them to disable their ad-blocking software.
    ad blocking detection

What are your thoughts on the matter?

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Share your opinion

4 Responses

  1. Elise L. Connors says:

    I would venture to guess that quality of advertising will improve, which will mean that our CPCs/CPMs will likely increase, but CPAs will likely improve. We’ll reach more of the people who care about advertising and may be more likely to take action.

    Those who choose to block ads can go away and allow us to reach more of the people who are more likely to care/pay attention.

    I’m excited about it.

    • Hadrien says:

      Hi Elise,

      Thank you for your comment and point of view, interesting!
      Not sure if people actually care about advertising, or simply don’t mind it.

      I agree that an increase in conversion rate is possible, but then again, that is in theory. I believe the impact of ad blockers, at least at this stage, is so minimal that us advertisers may not even feel it.

  2. Nice Post Hadrien,

    I think the most important thing to remember is that if everybody starts to block ads Google will have to find some other way of making money other than charging for ads. I wonder how many people would like to get charged PER SEARCH? Think of the consequences before you block!

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