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As Digital Marketers we may love creating them, but let's face it. People don’t like ads. At the start of this year a study by the IAB found 15% of brits were blocking ads. Can you really blame them? They can intrusive, distracting and get in the way of the content we want to consume. Often they considerably increase page-loading times, or sometimes force us to watch them when really we just want to get to the content we were searching for (As with pre-roll video ads).
We’re all busy and expect to be served the content we searched for in seconds. On average we spend five years of our lives blinking. Really? All those times ads delay us reaching the content we want adds up too, so its little wonder people are increasingly turning to ad blocking software. A new study from Sourcepoint and comScore reveals that the people most likely to use ad-blocking software are also some of the highest value types of customers: millennial high-earners.
As is often the case with technology adoption, the young lead the way when it comes to the use of Ad blockers. Whilst only 7% of UK over 65s use adblockers, 20% of 18-24 years use them.
The variations by country are even larger, and should be taken into account when planning advertising campaigns in European markets. Usage of ad blocking software in Germany and France is approximately double what it is in the US. Among French 18-24-year-olds over 35% use ad blockers on desktop and so can’t be reached via traditional banner or pre-rolls ads on that platform.
Another trend which will worry advertisers is that the highest earners tend to be the most likely to use ad blocking software.
In all regions but France (where it is high across the board) the highest earners are the most likely to use ad-blocking software. This may be because they are fussier about not having their time wasted, or it just could be that they are more likely to be tech savvy and thus aware of ad blockers. Either way it represents a challenge to the current advertising model, as those most likely to purchase your products are also the least likely to see your ads.
In the west, ad blocking on mobile is relatively uncommon right now, but that is set to change. In July of this year only 0.1 of mobile page views in the US and UK were affected by ad blockers. However in Asia the rate is far higher. 7.9% in China and 9% in India. This is owing to the fact that browsers, which support mobile blocking such as Maxthon and UCBrowser have received substantial adoption in those countries.
But this is set to change, with mobile ad blockers coming to iOS 9. A content blocking app has held the top spot among paid aps in the Apple’s app store since the launch of iOS 9. An easterly wind is blowing, as Asian levels of add blocking are coming to the west. It also seems likely they will increase further, as media attention around ad blocking makes more consumers aware of it and thus causing them to adopt it.
This trend will rightly worry publishers. If all countries went the way of France and Germany, they could see their revenue from ads drop by as much as a third, whilst advertisers we rue the loss of possible customers.
There are ways around this however. Native advertising is one such way, where adverts are part of the content on the site, for example an editorial article on a publisher's site about how useful a Smart Insights membership is, rather than a banner on site which extols the benefits of Smart Insights. Ad blockers can’t block native advertising because it cannot be distinguished from actual site content. Thus expect native advertising to become far more popular with the growth of ad blocking. Advertisers worried about losing access to their target audience because of ad blockers should consider looking into native advertising options.
As well as encouraging the use of native advertising, the prevalence of ad-blocking software on both desktop and mobile will also mean getting customers to use a companies’ app rather than their website will be highly valued. Facebook for example, despite making almost all its revenue from people paying to advertise on its platform, isn’t too worried by ad blockers. This is because a majority of its users are mobile, some 844 million of them in fact, and they predominantly access Facebook via it’s app rather than through a browser. Ad blockers only work on browsers, and can do nothing to stop you seeing ads within a 3rd party app. Therefore if ad blockers become extremely popular publishers may place a considerable premium on attracting users to their apps.
To do this they should focus on building excellent user experiences, as attempting to force them to sign-up via intrusive pop-ups will probably only lead to them choosing to access their content elsewhere.
By Robert Allen
I was the Editor of Smart Insights between 2015-2017. I managed the blog and you will find blog articles on a range of subjects- Marketing Technology trends and latest tech developments are a regular focus, as well as exploring key marketing concepts. You can get in touch with me on Twitter and connect with me on LinkedIn. The new Editor is Carolanne Mangles.
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