Adblock Plus has admitted that the “total ad-blocking” phenomenon, on which it has, until now, based its business model is unsustainable and threatens the “free Internet”.
However, the firm predicts that mobile and so-called “partial adblocking” will run riot in 2017, following a year which has seen the company embark on a tit-for-tat battle with Facebook, win a series of legal victories in Germany and raise a few eyebrows by launching its own ad sales operation.
In July, the IAB insisted that ad blocking on desktop has levelled out, although the same cannot be said for mobile, where it has been claimed that ad-blocking has yet to make major inroads.
Even so, according to PageFair’s Mobile Adblocking Report, at least 419 million people are blocking ads on smartphones, overtaking that of desktop by almost double.
Further research from eMarketer also identifies the growing importance of mobile, with 72% of all US digital ad spend being used on mobile, and predicted to reach $65.87bn by 2019.
And Adblock Plus head of operations Ben Williams argues that brands must place close attention to providing better ads for users, otherwise face risking higher adoption of adblocking.
He said: “If PageFair’s report is anything to go by, 2017 represents a significant wake-up call for the industry to address the poor quality of ads that has plagued the mobile platform.”
In September, Adblock Plus performed a classic “poacher turned gamekeeper” manouvre by launching a service which allows it to sell ads to website owners – but only ones which it deems acceptable. The Acceptable Ads Platform allows online publishers to pick from a list of so-called “acceptable” ads and place them on their pages. When a vistor who has installed Adblock Plus comes to the page, they will be shown only those ads, instead of the ads the site would normally run.
Williams pointed to a recent study the firm conducted alongside HubSpot, which found that 87% of people consider ads to be more prevalent and 91% said they are more intrusive than they were two to three years ago, with some of the most intrusive ones found on mobile, including full screen, video and mobile game ads.
He added: “The growth of ad blocking is not only a consumer reaction to intrusive ads. It also serves as a critical empowerment tool, where half of respondents in our survey (51%) use ad blockers to regain control over their own user experience. This is a big call-to-action for the industry that if you’re not able to provide enjoyable experiences for users, they will continue to use ad blockers to achieve it.”
As users adopt ad blockers to shape their own online experiences, Williams also concedes that total adblocking is a thing of the past and users are coming to accept the notion of ‘partial adblocking’.
“People are realising that total adblocking is simply not the answer as it’s unsustainable and risks the idea of a ‘free Internet’. Our research also supports the notion of partial adblocking, with 77% stating that they would prefer to filter rather than block everything, and 83% responding they’d like to block just the obnoxious ads.
“Despite these promising figures, if vast amounts of money continue to be plugged into growing platforms such as mobile without an awareness of intrusive ads, users will be driven to total ad blocking – affecting both brand reputation and diminished advertising budgets. Getting this right will set a precedent for the year ahead and help users regain control of their own experience.”
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