Content is king in the fight against ad blockers

Publishers dealing with the growing use of ad blockers haven’t had much to smile about lately, but according to research conducted by C3Research for the IAB, the majority of consumers using ad blockers can be convinced to uninstall them.

C3Research polled 1,300 desktop users and 201 mobile users in the U.S. about their use or non-use of ad blockers and found that those using ad blockers or considering using them did so primarily to ensure that ads didn’t slow down and distract them from their browsing experience. Others also cited their desire to prevent their devices from being infected by viruses and malware.

But apparently publishers aren’t helpless. Two-thirds of those surveyed who use ad blockers said they would consider stopping. How?

According to the IAB:

Respondents who use ad blockers stated that the adoption of the LEAN principles (Light, Encrypted, AdChoice supported, and Non-invasive ads), which address a number of the tactics outlined above, would have the greatest influence in getting them to turn off ad blockers.

For instance, results showed that men ages 18-34, who are the main ad blocking demographic on desktops, are also the group most inclined to turn off blocking if sites adhere to LEAN.

Practice versus theory

The IAB launched its LEAN Ads program late last year in response to the widespread and growing use of ad blockers.

In a contrite post, the IAB’s Senior VP of Technology and Ad Operations, Scott Cunningham, admitted that the online ad industry had “messed up” by sacrificing user experience to maximize ad inventory and revenue.

The IAB believes that ads based on LEAN principles, if widely adopted, could restore user experience and help publishers and advertisers regain consumer trust, and the IAB’s new study suggests consumers are receptive to the notion.

But the problem is that LEAN principles are not widely adopted and might never be. The online advertising ecosystem is large and complex, and for all its virtues, programmatic has only made it even larger and more complex. So it’s hard to see when consumers can turn off their ad blockers and browse the web confident that they won’t run into annoying and even dangerous ads somewhere at some time.

That means publishers have to look at what is convincing users to turn their ad blockers off, and that is very simple: DEAL, the IAB’s acronym for Detect, Explain, Ask, and Lift or Limit.


Limiting or blocking users’ access to content when ad blockers are turned on was cited as the primary reason former users of ad blockers disabled their ad blocking software. This is a reminder to publishers that content is king.

Large numbers of consumers might not like ads, but they want quality content and many will disable their ad blockers if it’s the price they have to pay for that content.

Related reading