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For digital advertisers, no trend is as disruptive as the one posed by the rise of ad blocking technology and the global adoption of ad blocking software. Fueled by the ease at which anyone can download an ad blocking plugin or enable ad blocking on their internet browser, this trend prevents display ads, pre-roll ads, and pop-ups advertisements from reaching their intended audiences and costs publishers billions of dollars in lost ad revenue every year.
To help marketers understand the scope and significance of this threat, we’ve sourced the biggest ad blocking statistics that marketers need to know in 2016.
Ad blocking is more common than many marketers previously thought, according to a recent Business Insider Intelligence Report. An estimated 200 million people around the world used ad blocking software in 2015, a 700% increase from 2010 figures (when ad blocking claimed only 25 million monthly active users, or MAUs).
The report also notes that the rates of ad blocking usage vary depending on demographics, though young males—particularly those on gaming-related sites—are much more likely to use ad blockers than the average internet user.
United States ad blocking usage is expected to reach 86.6 million by 2017, claiming roughly one-third (32%) of all internet users in the U.S. Should this projection prove accurate, usage of ad blocker will increase by 24% from 2016 to 2017 (eMarketer).
Facebook is particularly concerned about ad blocking technology, as over 96% of the network’s revenue is reported to come from advertising. According to TechCrunch, the social media giant has been funneling resources into figuring out ways to stop the spread of ad blocking, including developing its own software to “block the ad blockers” and exercising more control over the advertising experience with ads that are less intrusive.
Ad blocking poses a significant threat to digital media companies that rely on advertising to stay salient. An April 2016 Business Insider article predicted that, if ad blocking levels on mobile devices catch up to ad blocking levels on desktop, media companies could lose out on as much as $9.7 billion in the coming year.
While this figure may not worry industry giants like Google’s Alphabet, Walt Disney, and Comcast (which have revenues of $60 billion, $22 billion, and $20 billion, respectively), smaller media companies may not survive the squeeze that ad blocking will put on advertising revenues (Business Insider).
As ad blocking technology becomes more widespread, one statistics firm is predicting what amounts to a “doomsday scenario” for media publishers. According to a study cited by Digiday, if media companies continue doing little to arrest the spread of ad blockers, the industry could face losses of $35 billion by 2020. Even if media companies do everything in their power to stop ad blockers from stealing advertising revenues, “best-case” projections are that media companies will lose an astonishing $16 billion in 2020.
The adoption of ad blocking software has seen massive growth in the past several years, much to the chagrin of marketing professionals and media companies that generate income through pre-roll videos ads, display ads, and other forms of online advertising. From 2015 to 2016, 34% more people used ad blockers in the United States, up slightly from the 30.7% increase from 2014 to 2015 (eMarketer).
Among U.S. internet users, the number of people using ad blockers has increased from 39.7 million in 2014 to 69.8 million in 2016, a 75% increase in only two years (eMarketer). Ad blocking on desktop increased by 66% in that same period (from 38 million to 62.3 million), while mobile ad blockers increased by an astonishing 187% (from 7.2 million to 20.7 million).
Unsurprisingly, the age demographic most likely to download an ad blocker in the U.S. is 18- to 24-year-olds (44%), followed by 25- to 34-year-olds (29%) and 35- to 44-year-olds (24%). According to Reuters’ data, men are almost 60% more likely to use an ad blocker than women, and nearly 70% of respondents claimed that “[high] volume of ads” was the reason they chose to download an ad blocking app or software (Digiday).
A 2016 survey of 4,000 smartphone users in the U.S. and Europe found that 24.6% of respondents claimed to have downloaded an ad blocker, with nearly 10% of people claiming to have done so since November 2015 (TechCrunch). As mobile usage among soars in response to more affordable technology and the ubiquity of wireless internet access (especially in developed nations), this trend will continue to negatively impact mobile-based advertising initiatives.
According to a large study conducted by Seattle-based marketing firm Tune, U.S. and European ad blocking on mobile devices could eclipse penetration rates of 80% by the end 2017 if current adoption rates hold steady (Tech Crunch). The study also found that teenagers and older adults block ads slightly less than young adults and middle-aged mobile internet users, and that Android users are slightly more likely to download an ad blocker than iOS user (27% to 22%, respectively).
As ad blocking usage continues to increase at an alarming rate, marketers are now attempting to identify the reason why internet users are turning to this disruptive technology in the first place. A survey that appeared in eMarketer shows that 40% of people downloaded an ad blocker because they were “tired of being bombarded” by ads, while 45% of respondents claimed that pop-up ads were the impetus for using an ad blocker. Roughly one-third of those surveyed said that ads that prevent access to content, like YouTube pre-roll ads, were the reason they resorted to using an ad blocker.