Ad blocking gathered pace last year, with eMarketer estimating the percentage of UK internet users employing the technology grew to one in five. While some believe that ad blocking is being overhyped, it remains an issue.
Much of the sentiment behind ad blocking behavior centers on poor digital advertising practices, giving those who block plenty of justification for doing so. A Q3 2016 survey from AudienceProject found that irrelevant messaging was a primary trigger, while concerns over tracking and slow load times also played a part in UK internet users’ decision to use ad blockers.
There are numerous ways to tackle the issue, as outlined in eMarketer’s May 2016 report, “UK Ad Blocking: A Growing Problem, and Not Just for Publishers” (available to eMarketer PRO subscribers only). However, a recent trial by UK publisher Dennis Publishing in collaboration with content monetization firm Sourcepoint found that one particular method worked for them.
During a 6-month test period, Dennis presented ad blocking users who visited the company’s sites with custom messages educating them about the different “compensation choices” available to them. These options ranged from opting in to view advertising, whitelisting the site or watching video content—all in exchange for an ad-free experience.
According to the firm, 57% of ad blocking users continued their visit by enabling ads with a one-click opt-in solution and 38% of users added sites to their whitelist. Engagement with the subsequent advertising was also positively affected. For example, when users chose to view video content in exchange for ad-free browsing, the viewthrough rate reached 75%.
“We firmly believe a value exchange needs to be established between brands and users to safeguard future revenues,” said Nick Flood, product and commercial operations director at Dennis. “These results demonstrate that users are happy to engage with tailored messages and opt in to a range of advertising experiences in exchange for access to premium editorial content.”
Data from a February 2017 Internet Advertising Bureau UK (IAB UK) study conducted by YouGov suggests more aggressive efforts to curb ad blocking appear to work. The survey found that the percentage of adult internet users who currently use ad blockers had risen less than 1 percentage point vs. a year earlier.
“The continued rise in ad blocking that some predicted simply hasn’t materialized,” said Jon Mew, IAB UK’s CEO. “A key reason is publishers denying access to content to ad blockers which, in effect, has created that ‘lightbulb’ moment for people who realize they cannot access free content without seeing the advertising that funds it. The industry has worked hard on promoting this value exchange, and it’s paying off.”
The IAB UK/YouGov study found that 21% of respondents who originally downloaded ad blockers no longer used them. “Not being able to access some content with the blocker installed” tied with “switching to a new device” as the most commonly cited reason for discontinuing use, with the percentage of respondents who said so at 24% this year, up from 16% in February 2016.