Is adblocking becoming the new norm?

Is adblocking becoming the new norm? With 16 years of experience working on the front line of digital advertising at Yahoo! then Microsoft, Bethan started her career in display advertising and then moved to search operations, before joining GroupM in 2015. Her current focus is on media quality and data integrity policy, process and governance to support GroupM UK’s digital strategy.


The latest IAB UK adblocking Consumer Usage and Attitudes Report shows approximately one fifth of online adults are actively using adblocking software in the UK.

Whilst desktop and laptop adoption rates hold steady, the PageFair AdBlocking Goes Mobile Report indicates the next challenge will come from mobile web and in app adblocking.

The assumption that adblocking is the domain of tech-savvy young audiences no longer holds true. Adblocking is part of the new digital advertising ecosystem norm.

But why?

The competing theories of bandwidth impact (download latency and telecom costs), privacy intrusion (tracking and targeting) and interruptive advertising (quantity and quality) seem to distil down to simply ‘ads are annoying’ for some consumers.

For UK publishers, it is difficult to quantify the exact revenue risk but it is clearly proportional to dependence on digital ad vs other revenue streams.

There is a win-win-win, consumer-publisher-advertiser scenario – we just need some time to scale and deliver it.

For the advertisers, who pay only for impressions which are not blocked, it’s not about ad spend wasted, but instead how increasingly difficult it can become to reach valuable target audiences when more consumers are opting out of advertising.

In response to the economic challenge adblocking presents to publishers, some have opted to implement the controversial practice known as ad reinsertion. 

Ad reinsertion occurs when a publisher uses a technology solution to circumvent consumer adblocking technology – perpetuating a tech arms race.

Equally some adblocking services have agreed to white list and let pass advertising in exchange for a revenue share agreement with a publisher. In either case, the consumer may be exposed to advertising when they believe they have specifically opted out. 

Many, including GroupM, worry that negative feelings stimulated in these consumers could be directed toward the brands whose advertising is shown.

Good news

The good news for advertisers and publishers is that consumers seem to be open to a dialogue about the value exchange between exposure to advertising and access to free content.

The latest IAB UK adblocking Consumer Usage and Attitudes report indicates consumers have seen publisher notices (tested by UK publishers including City A.M, The, The Telegraph and Trinity Mirror) and more than half are willing to switch off adblocking for favourite, some or all sites.

The industry challenge therefore is not to counter adblocking through ad re-insertion or paid re-inclusion but to evolve, as we have done many times over the last 20 years, our use of technology, data and design to focus on relevance, engagement and creativity.

We are already heading in this direction with the Coalition for Better Ads, IAB led LEAN and DEAL initiatives, individual publisher communication and advertising acceptance strategies, and across the board responsible questioning of the use of data.

There is a win-win-win, consumer-publisher-advertiser scenario – we just need some time to scale and deliver it.

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