Ad Blockers Popularity Boom – Why Is It Happening?

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Ad blockers. Since Apple decided to allow them in the app store last year they have been popping up (ha!) like whack a mole rodents, amplifying a problem that was previously restricted to android devices. This is causing increasing concern among mobile advertisers and publishers alike, but before we all start to panic, let’s take a look at the stats and try to find out why this is happening.

Percentage of  Internet users blocking ads


According to a Global Web Index study, up to 70% of mobile users across all demographics are either blocking ads or interested in blocking them. This is an intimidating number, and suggests potential for proliferation of adblocking apps and software in the future. User dissatisfaction with internet advertising has even leaked into popular culture. However, there are many misconceptions about user discontentment, and it is important to first understand the motivation for blocking ads in order to look for potential solutions.

An industry report by Tune, which surveyed close to 4,000 smartphone owners in the U.S. and Europe has found that in the last three months alone (November 2015 – January 2015) the growth rate of new users installing mobile ad blockers has more than tripled. And these numbers are pretty consistent across the board by age and location. 18-34 year olds are the most likely to block ads, but not by a significant amount when compared to other ages. 24% of Americans block ads compared to 27% for English people, a surprisingly small margin when considering that Europeans have traditionally been more ad averse than Americans.

Percentage of  Internet users blocking ads, by geo location


Although privacy is and has been a big concern in the mobile ad debate for years, there may be a more tangible explanation for this consistent desire to block ads: savings. Blocking ads on the mobile web can reduce the amount of data used, and with many wireless carriers starting to charge “overdraft fees” for users that surpass their data limits, this can mean quite a relief to their wallets. Smartphone owners in developing countries where mobile data is more expensive are more likely to decide to block ads. Reducing data consumption also means a fuller battery, allowing people to get more use time between charges.

The jump in adblockers has resulted in divergent reactions from the online ad community. One has been to concentrate more on Native Advertising. In very broad terms this is ad content designed to blend seamlessly into the normal editorial content on publishing platforms. Exactly how the ads look and feel will depend on the type of content published on a given platform; this can be anything from a video, to an infographic, to an article.

The concept behind native advertising is sound: create a piece of interesting content with the brand message baked in.  But the quality of this format, as with any other ad format, will always depend on its ability to interest consumers. The better the content, the harder it is for the viewer to tell that it is an ad, and the less they will mind being marketed to. To this end, many digital publishers are forming content teams giving more “traditional” journalists strategic and editorial responsibilities over the creation of native ads.

Another reaction to adblock proliferation is the formation of publisher cartels. These groups believe that they have power in numbers, and band together to defend their revenue stream. They request users to disable their adblock software in order to access content on their platforms, or to pay a small fee in order to have an ad-free or reduced-ad reading experience. The risk to this approach is that users will stop visiting these sites altogether.

The last 9 months trend of ad blockers usage increase


These two reactions do not address the real problem: boring, invasive, ugly ads. Ads will always be a nuisance to users until they cease to be so. And they will cease to be so with improved targeting and presentation.

What content consumers often forget is that advertising and subscriptions are pretty much the only two revenue sources available for any type of content platform, from newspapers, to television, to online magazines. Online marketing is a harmonious, self sustaining environment; without ads, publishers would have no way to distribute their entertaining content, and without entertaining content, businesses would have no means to get their message out to potential consumers (or at least wouldn’t have such a large pool of potential customers all in one place).

As advertising professionals, we can mend the relationship between consumers and ads by matching the hard work of content creators and thinking up creative ads that are just as interesting as the editorial content they accompany. For the pessimists out there questioning whether or not that is possible, there are plenty of examples of great bannernative, and other forms of digital advertising.  Putting more emphasis on creative has always been one of the keys to conversion, and it has become even more important now that users have the power to choose the ads they see.

Another way to increase ad acceptance is through improved targeting: using data to verify the users that are most likely to appreciate an ad for a specific product or service. Mobusi has a highly sophisticated database and a wide network of publishers that allows us to serve the right ad to the right people in the right place, and optimize campaigns to get the most out of the traffic we obtain. Combining top notch creative ads and pinpoint targeting is a great way to increase conversion while reducing unwanted ad clutter for the user.

Although the statistics are a bit scary, it’s important to keep things in perspective. Just because users are downloading adblocking apps, doesn’t necessarily mean that they are using them. According to the Tune study, many adblockers only prevent ads on the mobile web, even though 90% of our time spent on mobile devices is in-app. Users consume a great deal of content they see published on their social media feeds, links that take them to the app’s built in web browser and are typically adblocker free. Facebook’s Instant Articles was completely ad free when launched but has plans to incorporate more and more native ad features. As advertisers and publishers, it is important to focus on what you can control (content and creativity) and have faith that new publishing options will continue to open up in the future.

To find out how Mobusi can help improve your ad service, or optimize your traffic to obtain the highest possible revenue, send us your information and an accounts representative will get in touch. We look forward to hearing from you.