The unprecedented growth of Ad blocking software is becoming more than just an irritant within media and advertising circles. An estimated 12 million people now use Ad blockers in the UK alone. The issue highlights a number of issues, including consumer privacy, advertising quality and whether the entire ad-funded model is under threat for publishers. This isn’t an issue that is going to disappear…. So what is driving the phenomenon? And what can be done to reverse it?
Many people who use Ad blockers aren’t aware of the wider consequences of their actions. 56% of people who block ads don’t realise that it means lost revenue for the website owner. The worrying thing is that the same survey found people were no more likely to stop using the software once told that their free content is funded by the ads they are served. It seems most people just want to have their cake and eat it; free content and no ads. The question to ask is – would ad blockers be as popular if ads were more relevant for people online?
Personalisation is arguably at the centre of the debate. We’ve all experienced that once -browsed item subsequently following us around the web for days after – which is a bit irritating. But personalisation can be really cool – walking around and getting unique ads and offers sent through to your mobile is something consumers have readily accepted. It’s a tough one to call – is it up to the advertisers and publishers to make advertising more interesting? Or would people still block out ads in an attempt to get to their content quickly, easily and for free? Is highly personalised targeting the source or solution of Ad blocking behaviour?
Privacy concerns are an often-quoted reason for Ad blocking; many don’t like the thought of their personal info – what they’ve been looking at, what their interests are, where they are browsing from – to be known by advertisers.
It’s hard to imagine a world where people have to pay to access the content they are currently getting for free. But the damaging effect of Ad blockers on the industry needs to stop. There need to be steps taken from all sides to nip this in the bud. People blocking ads need to realise that they can’t have both free content and block ads simultaneously and publishers need to make clear the damage Ad blocking is doing to the industry.
Perhaps when the wealth of free content we consume really comes under threat, and creativity in online advertising becomes more established, the growth in the use of Ad blockers will start to reverse.