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Ad Blockers: Software and apps are making it easier for consumers to block ads online.

Ad Blockers Add Hurdle to Digital Campaigns

September 9th, 2016   ||    by Monta Monaco Hernon

An increasing number of advertisers are enjoying the targeting capabilities and immediacy of digital campaigns. As the volume of advertisements has risen, so too has the irritation of consumers and the marketability of software that allows users to shut out messages. One-fourth of Internet users in the United States claim to have used ad blockers on their desktops or laptops, and an additional 17 percent say they plan to in the next few months, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau. eMarketer predicts that use of ad blockers will grow 34 percent this year and 24 percent in 2017.

That said, research on the subject has varied, with comScore showing 10 percent of US desktop users having some sort of ad blocking technology. The Wall Street Journal noted that this number is more in keeping with what major online publishers are reporting. Slate, for example, said earlier this year that the publication was losing 8 percent of potential online ad revenue due to ad blocking. Still, the range of available statistics has been frustrating to those trying to figure out the scope of the issue as well as the solution, the WSJ says.

Block the Blocking

The good news is that users don’t want to block all advertising. An IAB survey found ads that block content, those that follow scrolling, and video ads cause the most annoyance. Specifically, viewers dislike lengthy messages preceding short video content and those that do not have a skip button. Another issue is that online ads are often trusted less than television advertising. For example, statistics collected by Nielsen showed that in 2015, 49 percent of respondents said they trusted ads served in search engine results, compared to 63 percent that trust what they see on TV.

So what is a digital advertiser to do? Some companies are already taking a hard-line approach. In early August, Facebook, for example, said it would actively prevent ad blockers from working on its site. The result has been a battle between the social media giant and the open source community. Ad blocking tools use filters to detect indicators in web code to determine the location of advertisements. Facebook and the developers volleyed back and forth changing indicators and filters to match until Facebook removed indicators from its code, Business Insider said.


As an alternative, the IAB proposes the concept of LEAN—Light, Encrypted, AdChoice supported, and Noninvasive—as a way to convince ad block proponents to turn off their blocking tools. LEAN addresses some major consumer concerns and provides guidelines, including:

  • Ensure ads do not have autoplay audio or video
  • Do not let ads block content
  • Guarantee ads do not slow down browsing
  • Make sure ads are free from malware/viruses

Men, ages 18–34, which makes up the main users on desktops, said if LEAN principles were utilized, they would turn off ad blockers. In accordance, IAB’s Tech Lab is working on a scoring algorithm and will publish LEAN scorecard recommendations by the end of the year.

Television has encountered similar problems, particularly with DVR users skipping advertisements, but encouragingly, 88 percent of viewers in the UK reported that they watch live television ads, according to a study commissioned by Yospace. This research also showed 78 percent would notice live TV advertisements if they were more personal. One in five viewers want geographically relevant ads and one-fifth would respond to age-appropriate messages.

Advertising campaigns are crossing media, so too can the results of these surveys. The takeaway? Consumers seem less likely to block or skip non-intrusive ads, while are more likely to watch targeted ones.

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