A recent surge in adblocking—an open-source Web browser plugin that blocks nearly all ad formats—indicates that users prefer to consume content uninterrupted. AdBlock Plus, the most widely used adblocking software, leads the way with the recent release of a browser for Android with built-in adblocking. iOS isn’t far behind, with Apple set to include content-blocking extensions in iOS 9. According to the 2014 PageFair and Adobe report Adblocking goes Mainstream, 45 percent of adblock users expressed a complete lack of desire to view any advertising and wanted as many ads as possible removed from websites. 17 percent of respondents cited that privacy concerns were the reason for using an adblocking plugin.
But as Skyword Founder and CEO Tom Gerace pointed out in his keynote presentation at the recent Content Rising Summit, marketers are increasing media, digital, and mobile Internet ad spending by $30 billion year year. We continue to shovel big money into a marketing method users strongly dislike.
Users care about adblocking because it enhances their browsing experience by, well, blocking annoying ads, as well as protecting privacy by eliminating cookies and stopping tracking pixels.
Millennials, in particular, have come to expect an ad-free browsing experience, establishing a generational standard. According to the PageFair report, 41 percent of Millennials in the U.S. claim to use adblocking software, compared to 27.6 percent overall. Globally, there are 144 million monthly active users who use adblocking plugins, as of Q2 of 2014, compared to 38 million just two years prior. This number is projected to continue skyrocketing.
If sites continue to offer browsing experiences bundled with ads, they risk missing opportunities to connect—turning a deaf ear to their page visitors— and paying for ads that go overlooked. Marketers must follow the crowd and find ways to connect with visitors in ways other than online advertising. We must not usher our passengers onto the plane filled with screaming babies.
My flight attendant asks, “Sir, would you like the chicken or the fish?”
“Chicken, please,” I say.
“The fish it is.”
Publishers who rely on ads to generate a significant chunk of their revenue care about adblocking software, too. In 2014 Pew Research Center found that 69 percent of US news revenue comes from advertising. It is vital to the success of publishers to innovate—to find new ways to engage their consumers. What did the music industry do when piracy became the norm? The best brands innovated and began delivering subscription-streaming services. The industry was forever changed, and the brands that succeeded shifted with the changing market. Publishers must think differently, too.
Advertising firms who sell ad placements to companies care about adblocking software. As adblocking becomes more prevalent and publishers and media companies scramble to find alternative revenue streams, advertisers will also have to reconsider their business models.
The integration of adblocking into mobile—Android and iPhone—is big news. As we spend more time browsing the Web on our smartphones, marketers will have to come up with new ways to serve an adblocking-native audience. Interestingly, almost half of respondents to the PageFair report said they heard about adblocking from a friend, colleague, or family member. As adblocking spreads word-of-mouth among those we trust, how can advertisers and marketers earn the trust of the web browsing world?
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