Did you know the fortune cookie doesn’t actually originate from China? It was brought to the US by the Japanese! The truth is they are rarely found in China. But that is often the case for old wives tales and received wisdom – they often take on lives of their own before anyone can find out if they are true. The same could be said for ad blocking users.
Many might have you believe the reason for someone downloading an ad blocker is because they hate all forms of advertising. Well, this isn’t actually the case, and it’s important this understood by the advertising and publishing communities alike.
Last year, we conducted research to understand attitudes amongst online users towards advertising and use of ad blocking. For those who haven’t seen our findings, the results might surprise you. Nearly three quarters of ad-blocking users say the primary reason for downloading an ad blocker is because they don’t want to see invasive forms of advertising during their online experience. Interesting, hey? What else do they have to say?
Well, and this is probably less surprising, privacy is a key concern.
We now live in a post-Cambridge Analytica world and users are highly aware of how adverts track their online behavior, using their information to serve adverts which are considered more relevant to them.
So, it is little surprise that our research shows that nearly half of ad-blocking users now install an ad blocker due to security or privacy concerns, suggesting there is a perceived threat linked to digital advertising and that users recognize ad blocking as a partial solution. Furthermore, over 70 per cent of British and US ad blocking users said if a website disabled their ad blocker without permission, they would ‘not likely’ to return to that website. Regardless of your position, the prospect of losing over two thirds of your audience through one action, is not something any organization would want to entertain.
Finally, a third of ad-blocking users said they use an ad blocker to speed up their internet connection, suggesting that users see an increase in speed when using ad-blocking software and/or that they perceive some advertising as slowing down their experience.
Advertisers ignore these important findings about the ad blocking audience at their peril. As it’s clear that ad blocking users don’t hate ads, they just have a lower tolerance for intrusive ad formats. Online users are smarter than they are often given credit for. They recognize that to keep the internet free advertising is part of the bargain. And because of this we have seen a migration away from the uncompromising total ad blocking models of the early noughties, to solutions and applications promoting greater balance between publisher, advertiser and user.
Ad blocking users understand the importance of ads
Perhaps the key finding of the report that advertisers need to be aware of is the fact that four-fifths of ad blocking users reported they understood the importance of adverts and marketing for the sustenance of a free internet ecosystem.
To put it simply: ad blockers respect the digital ecosystem but at the same time they don’t want advertising formats that disrupt their browsing experience.
They do however recognize the importance of advertising to a free internet and are willing to enter into a fairer value exchange with advertisers and publishers. Basically, one in which they receive higher quality forms of advertising that are far more relevant to them.
Online users download an ad blocker because they feel that they want to take control over their online experience. Purely because consumers were being force-fed poor quality and intrusive ads for too long, with ad blocking providing them with a means to view the content they want without the trade-off of annoying, irrelevant and intrusive advertising on their smartphones, laptops, and computers.
Advertisers and publishers alike should take time to digest that key figure above. To reiterate it: four out of five UK online users acknowledge the importance of advertising to a free internet.
Through understanding the above key drivers for ad blocking adoption, the publishing and advertising communities will be far better equipped in future to successfully deliver better ads that their target audiences will genuinely engage with.
We are already seeing a number of successful initiatives that strike the right balance for users that demand control on their internet experience, while wanting to contribute to the value exchange with publishers.
While users balk at technologies which might disable an ad-blocker, ‘consent-based’ forms of advertising are already working on at least half of the major websites in the world. And as the industry has adjusted to ad blocking, we find ourselves closer today than ever before to a solution that can work for everyone.
There’s still loads of work left to do, but the key is arriving at standards and solutions that everyone in the industry buys into.