Ad blocker use continues to grow rapidly

A series of green arrows pointing into the distance, one reading NO ADS in white block capitals.

Last week, PageFair released its 2017 Adblock Report, and the news was not good for publishers and advertisers.

By PageFair’s count, in December, some 615m devices had ad blocking software in use, a 30% jump from the previous year. All told, 11% of the global internet population is now using ad blocking technology.

And it gets worse. Consider the following:

  • 62% of the devices using ad blocking software were mobile devices. Given that mobile ads account for more than half of Google’s ad revenue, and the bulk of Facebook’s ad revenue, the impact of the widespread adoption of ad blockers on mobile devices is hard to ignore.
  • Ad blocking use leaped by 40% in Asia-Pacific. Emerging markets, particularly in Asia, are increasingly important to many companies so the rapidly growing popularity of ad blockers in this region signals that publishers may struggle to monetize this traffic and advertisers may struggle to reach these populations.
  • Nearly two-thirds of ad block users will leave a site that asks them to disable their ad blocker. Clearly, if this figure is to be believed, ad block walls are not effective.
  • Individuals in the U.S. who use ad blockers tend to be more highly educated. Audience attributes are important to both publishers and advertisers for obvious reasons, and higher ad block usage among educated users is not desirable. Most concerning is the fact that Americans with a bachelor’s degree who are between the ages of 18 and 24 are three times more likely to use an ad blocker than the general population.

Perhaps most disturbing is the fact that mobile ad block penetration in the U.S. and U.K. is only 1%. The vast majority (94%) of mobile ad block usage is in Asia-Pacific. With PageFair stating that “mobile adblock is ready to expand into North America and Europe,” the monetary impact of ad blocking, which is already estimated to be in the tens of billions of dollars annually, has the potential to grow significantly.

Despite the widespread distaste for digital ads, 77% of ad block users say they’d be willing to view some ad formats. They cite disruptive ad formats and concerns over malware as the primary reasons for using ad blockers. But it’s not clear how publishers and advertisers can actually address this, as evidenced by the ineffectiveness of ad block walls, which have become one of the more commonly used tactics publishers use to mitigate ad blockers.

For the time being, it would appear that ad blocking will only continue to grow, and the effects on publishers and advertisers will get worse before they get better. And there’s a real question as to whether they will ever get better.

Related reading

CNN screenshot featuring a Simpson’s video parody of President Trump