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Ad Blocking Is a Growing Problem, Particularly for Publishers

The use of ad blockers was up substantially on a global basis in 2015

March 3, 2016 | Advertising & Marketing

Ad blocking continues to gain ground as more consumers discover how easy it is to install a browser plug-in that eliminates the ads they consider most intrusive—video pre-rolls, displays, interstitials, page takeovers, etc. The consensus is that ad blocking is a headache for all who depend on ad-supported digital media, as explored in a new eMarketer report, “Global Ad Blocking Update: Video Moves to the Foreground, with Only Partial Solutions in Sight.”

Internet Users Worldwide Who Have Blocked an Ad, Q1-Q4 2015 (% of respondents)

Social video advertising firm Unruly delved into the "why" of ad blocking with a survey that asked internet users whether they were seeing too many ads or being shown the same ad repeatedly. Respondents generally complained more about an excess of video ads than about repetition, but the survey suggests both factors contributed to decisions to install ad blockers.

The Unruly data raises an issue that many point to as a key culprit in bringing about a wave of ad blocking: digital ad experiences that leave consumers frustrated, even angry., a video monetization platform for publishers, also studied the factors that inspire users to install ad blockers. With video ads, pre-rolls were considered the most intrusive format, and by extension the one that pushed people to take countermeasures. In the study, which was conducted in November 2015, 55% of respondents who had installed a desktop ad blocker ranked pre-rolls as the most annoying video format, compared with 25% for in-article native video—ad formats that appear between paragraphs of text on a page. On mobile devices, the figures were 52% and 23%, respectively.

Share of Time Spent Viewing Ad-Blocked Desktop Video Content in Select Countries, April-June 2015 (% of total time spent viewing desktop video content)

Malware also factors into decisions to install ad blockers, though users aren’t necessarily aware of the presence of malware. They are simply responding to an increase in the incidence of ads.

Additionally, video ad blocking is just one aspect of the larger issue, but it’s one that will continue to become more important given its growing share of the digital ad pie. In 2015, video accounted for 12.8% of US digital advertising, eMarketer estimates, but its share is expected to reach 15.8% by 2019.

A study by ad tech startup Secret Media and video tech company JW Player found elevated shares of time spent watching ad-blocked desktop video content in major countries. Percentages ranged from a low of 25% in the US to a high of 62% in Germany, according to polling conducted in June to April 2015.

Desktop Ad Blocking Rates in Select Countries in North America and Western Europe, June 2015 (% of total visitors)

There are caveats with this data: First, the study was limited to users of JW’s proprietary video player, which by the company’s own estimates is used in less than 5% of worldwide video streams. And secondly, both companies have a vested interest in trying to defeat ad blocking.

Despite these stipulations, it’s apparent that significant amounts of time are spent viewing ad-blocked video, and that’s the crux of the problem as far as publishers and advertisers are concerned.

Get more on this topic with the full eMarketer report, “Global Ad Blocking Update: Video Moves to the Foreground, with Only Partial Solutions in Sight.”

eMarketer releases over 200 analyst reports per year, which are only available to eMarketer corporate subscribers.



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