Is ad blocking a threat or a beacon of regulation? Tensions are escalating in the advertising industry on this hot topic considering it cost publishers nearly $22 billion globally in 2015, rising to an estimated $41.4 billion in 2016. That’s a huge loss that cannot be ignored. Despite the controversy over whether online ads are intrusive, the rise in the ad blocking business continues to grow.
Globally, the number of people using ad blocking grew by 41% and there are now 198 million active ad block users around the world. In the United States, ad blockers have grown by 48% and is forecasted to cost publishers $20.3 billion in 2016. Gaming and social networking sites are expected to be affected the worst. Mobile ad blocking is also expected to grow with such apps as Adblock Plus. In fact, Adblock Plus was uninvited to the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s annual leadership meeting because the IAB thinks that ad-blocking companies are “holding [publishers] sites and livelihoods hostage”.
Clearly, ad blocking technology is no friend to advertisers but why the sudden growth? According to a survey by PageFair and Adobe, the reasons people started using an ad blocker is because of misuse of personal information and an increase in the number of ads. Millennials were more likely to use an ad blocker versus those aged 35-49 who indicated they had no desire to use an ad blocking software. Frequent users of online websites and apps want their web pages to load faster and get them to the information they’re searching for quickly and without disruption.
The challenge for the advertising agency is how do we serve up ads that provide information security and grab attention without ruining a user’s experience? Let’s face it, consumers distrust ads. It is our jobs to rebuild that trust. AdBlock Plus’ Ben Williams thinks, “using an ad blocker is a statement of dissatisfaction”. Some publishers are taking the direct approach and flat out asking users to unblock ads. While this may have resulted in 30-40% of users whitelisting the publisher, ad blocking technology is forcing advertisers to get smarter and more strategic with their creative concepts and targeting approach.
While ad blocking is indeed a threat to the livelihood of brands and publishers, maybe it’s time for more brands to start doing things differently, where original content integration is more seamless. In other words…better.