Ipsos Encyclopedia - Ad Blocking

An ad blocker is a piece of software that usually comes as a browser extension or an app which can be downloaded by consumers in order to remove ads. Users choose to use them for a variety of reasons, including that they feel their online experience is interrupted by ads that blink, flash, potentially slow page load times or add to the cost of a mobile data plan.

Definition

Ad blockers use what are effectively pre-determined blacklists to determine which types of ads are blocked and which publishers are affected. The layout of a web page looks largely unaltered once the advertising is removed, it does not leave gaps where the advertising should have been displayed.

While helpful for users to avoid ads, Ad blockers are considered by website owners and trade bodied such as the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) a threat to advertising funded free content.

With the UK as an example, around 17% of the online population use ad blockers1, suggesting a near tipping point of mass adoption that would indeed threaten the existing advertising funded free content users have become accustomed to when going online.

In reaction to the use of ad blockers, some website owners have placed content walls on their sites when the software is detected and ask users to uninstall or deactivate it to access the available content.  Other websites now put up pay walls for access to certain types of content, where the user needs to make a financial payment to access the content.

While these commercial reactions from website owners are understandable, some industry figures believe this is reacting to the symptom of adoption rather than addressing the route case.  Research from Ipsos in France and the UK suggest that users are not anti to ads online per se but instead want a better experience from the advertising they see, such as the ability to skip ads that are not relevant to them.

In a paper issued by Ipsos, as a company we have suggested that more needs to be done by advertisers and website owners to convince users to uninstall ad blocking software to protect the free access to content they currently enjoy.  The recommendations we made in the paper are:

1. Redefining variables of programmatic currencies

At present, buying and selling behaviour is defined by what the market place values, which is delivering an impression to the right audience. Can consideration be given for advertisers to know how many other ads are shown on the same page? Or having a quality score of the online experience available to set as a bidding threshold?

2. Greater availability of user opt-in ad formats

Skippable and autoplay ad formats such as YouTube, TrueView and Facebook Video offer the best of both worlds. Users only watch the ads they like and advertisers only pay for ads viewed for an agreed minimum time. Are other publishers fully embracing these types of formats? And are advertisers insisting on them enough, rather than just focusing on reaching enough people?

3. Optimising advertising to the online experience

It's clear that advertisers need to be part of the solution and ask themselves if placing the same video creative they use for TV is going to fit the online and skippable advertising experience that users desire? Can they consider ways to creatively add to the experience, rather than intrude on it?

Media & Brand Communication