Ad-Blockers and Why Shrugging Them Off is a Bad Idea


CM-ad-blocker-900x450Display ads. Remarketing. On-page ads. All these are useful and fairly easy ways to get a short but powerful message and CTA in front of potential customers. What if all that work and effort for potential sales and leads were to vanish before anyone got the chance to be moved by your ad? Ad-blockers are here and that is the job they are prepared to do or are already doing if you were to ask the 198 million users actively blocking ads.

So What is an Ad-Blocker Really?

Ad-blockers are, as defined by Wikipedia: removing or altering advertising content in a webpage. Advertising can exist in a variety of forms including pictures, animations, embedded audio and video, text, or pop-up windows and can employ autoplay of audio and video.

Let’s put that into a more relatable context. All the pictures and text that are in the spaces allotted for advertisements are cleared out and filled in with the content produced by the site, ultimately to be consumed and not to drive revenue. These ad-blockers help to filter what you probably are not looking at to begin with and let you have an uninterrupted view of the content you chose to see in the first place.

Why Should We Care?

Ads on websites are now and have been for some time now, overlooked by a majority of internet users. So having advertisements that are, for the most part, a space filler not be displayed, is by and large a good thing. That is not the big selling point for these, however. The biggest benefit of it impacts mobile search most specifically. Ads cause a page to load slower and the longer it takes, the more battery your mobile device uses for each web page you browse. So this will allow you to browse longer while having a more clear and enjoyable search experience on mobile. This is probably why Apple thought it was ok to have a slightly smaller battery in the new iPhone 6s; otherwise I have no clue why they did that.

We Have Been Trained Well

Since I decided to write this I wanted to have some experience with an ad-blocker so I added Ad-Block to my Chrome browser. After a very quick download, I reloaded the sites I had originally opened and if I wouldn’t have taken a screenshot, I would have never noticed the ads were gone. I had become blind to the ads that for so long I had chosen to ignore. We will continue to have ads served up to us, whether we actually see them or not.

CNN compare

Photo credit: CNN

One way to think about it is: the spaces these ads occupy are for rent, but if these ads are being blocked and never shown, that rent is never paid. This is costing publishers big money. An estimated $21.8bn of ad revenue has been blocked in 2015 alone. This isn’t just for desktop sites either. Pagefair reports that 16% of mobile Firefox users are already blocking ads and this number is soon going to be eclipsed by the additions to iOS9. Safari commands 25% of the mobile browsing market share and with the update adding a native ad-blocker, publishers and advertisers alike should be scrambling for a solution.

“This is Not on My Radar”

This quote comes straight from an interview for this blog on Digiday. A CMO from an unnamed brand said this about how they have addressed the issues that come from ad-blockers and how their revenue may be affected. My opinion is this is not a smart place to be. As someone in an agency, you toil endlessly to stay up-to-date on trends, while cautiously avoiding run-of-the-night fads. Ad-blocking does not seem to be passing but growing rapidly with download rates up by almost 950% since 2010.

So What Does This Mean?

There are a few theories I have seen being kicked around, but here is the one I has really stuck with me.  Publishers have started to block content from those who are blocking their ads, most notably being the Washington Post and CNET. I am not sure what the extent of implementing this type of action is, I would say you can look forward to more high trafficked sites to start this, i.e. The Huffington Post, CNN, BuzzFeed.


Photo credit: CNET

I want to lay out a few predictions for what this will bring in the years to come.

  • Native advertising is going to starting popping up like wildfire. This will cause more sites with low-quality native ads to supplement their loss of revenue caused by ad-blockers.
  • Sponsored posts will look more like large display ads when clicked. This allows them to show up as normal content while still producing revenue.
  • Free and “paid” versions of more popular sites will start to drum up. I am using the word paid but I think this will just consist of “white-labeling” the site to allow for ads.
  • Ad guidelines will start to be more stringent allowing for the publisher to show higher quality ads to their viewers and not seem like a spam.

Advertisers are very smart and have adapted to restrictions in the past and I don’t see this being any different. Once there are ways to get around ad-blockers to have people still see ads, it will be used and abused until another restriction comes along and the circle of marketing continues.

As for my thoughts on ad-blockers and the future of on page advertising, did I miss anything?? Let me know in the comments below or shoot me a tweet.

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Jake Barker

Digital Marketing Coordinator
Jake is a Digital Marketing Coordinator at Customer Magnetism. When he is in the office you can find him brainstorming or creating content strategies with coffee in hand and various bags of chips at his desk. He also enjoys snowboarding and turn of the century pop punk.