Adblocking has gone mainstream: the latest report from Adobe PaigFair (https://blog.pagefair.com/2015/ad-blocking-report/) reported an 41% increase of usage for 2015, with up to 198 million active users.
But let’s start from the begining…
For those of you who don’t know about Adblockers, these are plugins or software that, once installed on your computer, will block ads from displaying when you surf the web. This not only makes websites to load faster, but also protects user’s privacy by not allowing tracking cookies to be placed on the computer or smartphone, and even blind them from malicious ads installing malware.
Unfortunately by default all ads are blocked when you install this kind of software. You have the option of allowing certain websites to display ads if you feel that a website deserves it. But let’s be honest: average users won’t care about this or may not even know they have this option.
Blocking ads is not something new: some of us already did that back on the 90’s by blocking some domains to load in our computers. Those were the old days of 56k modems, when websites took more than 2 minutes to load and we therefore had to somehow hack around this to properly surf the web.
But now the issue is different: with the raise of RTB and programmatic media, display advertising spend is growing at a very high rate, and so websites are getting flooded with ads as publishers try to monetize the efforts they put to generate content.
And let’s be honest: obtrusive ads are annoying. We all hate it when a full screen video ads is blocking us from reading the content or, even more, when it then blocks us from going back to the previous page.
And then… Adblockers become mainstream
That was going to happen. With almost no self-regulation by both advertisers and publishers, ads bloating websites and interrupting the user’s navigation, AdBlocker’s became mainstream.
It always happens the same way: techy savvy users start using something and then the word-of-mouth makes it popular.
Now, and according to the PageFair’s, adblocking penetration is 15% in the USA, 21% in the UK, 16% in Spain and even up to 35% in Poland.
It’s not that only a small bunch of “self-taught-freaks” are blocking ads. It’s that Adblockers are penetrating very fast and are as easy to install as any other software is.
In fact, and based on data provided by GlobalWebIndex, up to 1/3 of millenials are currently blocking ads:
Q2 2015 data from GlobalWebIndex put the share much lower on a worldwide basis. It found that 34% of those ages 16 to 24 and 31% of 25- to 35-year-old internet users blocked ads.
Those who are the future of the web are saying it clearly: “Stop bugging me!”
Let’s not forget that whatever happens on the visitor browsers it’s because users allow that to happen. It’s not just that they can choose to visit a website or not; it’s that whatever happens its on their hands. They will allow their devices to run that or they will not.
The web may be a mirror of your offline life, but it has different rules and has changed how markets evolve and communicate with customers. Now it’s a 2 way communication.
How is this affecting publishers and advertisers?
One might think that if a user doesn’t want ads then it’s OK for them to block them. But this is not as simple as it seems.
A lot of free websites depend on advertising to generate their income to pay the bills. And publishers are clearly loosing money as they’re displaying less and less ads than before, and this means less clicks, less impressions and therefore less income.
On the other hand, advertisers running media campaigns have less reach and conversions, and an increase on this adblocking trend may also affect their ability to reach new customers.
In short: nor publishers neither advertisers are happy with this.
Shouldn’t this be illegal then?
Ermmm… who cares? I mean: while users are actually getting content “for free”, they feel they’re being abused and so this gives them the right to block ads.
If there’s something we should have learned from Napster, Torrent downloads and similar it’s that when internet users feel abused, they will not care about legality and will find their way to get what they think they deserve at the price they think they deserve. And they will do that until they get a solution that provides them the content at the right price, as iTunes for mp3’s or Netflix for Movies are already doing.
In the Age of the Internet users have the power to choose. Markets have changed and you cannot just simply push your messages.
However, if you still feel like this should be legally discussed, then you should know that the Germany Courts have already ruled about it. And it’s legal (at least in Germany).
Adblocking “Acceptable Ads”
Both Adblock users (at least most of them) and the Adblocking developers do agree that some ads are acceptable, and that thus these must be allowed.
But what is an acceptable ad? In short: ads which do no intrude in the user’s web experience and which are honest about their content.
This sounds easy, but this statement also implies to read between lines again: “someone” has to review the ads to make sure they comply with the policies.
And here is when Adblock’s Acceptable Ads programmes come to the “rescue”!:Ad Networks can pay a fee to get their ads reviewed and included on a whitelist so they don’t get blocked.
Erm… well, of course everyone deserves to get paid for their work. But this sounds a bit on the grey zone. Don’t you think?
What can we do as agencies, advertisers or publishers?
Self regulation is the key.
No matter which role you have, just make sure that you never pay or get paid for intrusive, obstrusive or annoying ads.
If you are are an advertiser: ensure that your ads are polite and do not cover the whole content, do not expand if it’s not at user’s request, that sound is off unless it’s manually activated, and that the initial download size is less than 100kb (if you can make it 60kb, better!)…
If you are publisher: keep away from these ads formats, you’ll end up loosing visitors. You can try to detect Adblocking users (yes, you’ll find scripts for that on Google) and suggest them (or even block them as Forbes does) to deactivate it on your site. But I wouldn’t consider this option, as it’s not only somehow “unpolite”: it seems to be ilegal.
This is going to be a long way and unless a new actor comes in to scene I consider self-regulation to be the most honest approach. Anyway: would you like your brand or website to be remembered for being annoying?