Although relatively scarce for a long time, the use of ad blockers on mobile has been growing at a steady pace since this year. This sudden growth is worrying advertisers and publishers. Is the threat real? Can it be countered or bypassed? We take a look at the situation.
A strong increase in use
Ad blockers were for a long time confined to PC browsing, especially with the huge success of the free extension Ad Block Plus, released in 2006. Available for Chrome, Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox, it blocks all the display-type advertising content on web pages visited. Pop-ups and banners are mainly concerned. Browsing is more enjoyable and faster.
In France, it is estimated that 31% of PC Internet users have an advertising blocker (source: Reuters). There, as elsewhere, the proportion has stabilized in recent years. Publishers have in particular implemented deterrent systems, sometimes even blocking their editorial content as long as the extension is not disabled, arguing that advertising is their main source of revenue.
The phenomenon was all the more under control as mobile, a growing source of web traffic, was generally spared by ad blockers. Therefore mobile users were still exposed to banner ads, only a minority having bothered to download a dedicated app such as AdBlock for Mobile.
But the AudienceProject Institute has just discovered that ad blockers have been seeing strong growth on mobile since this year. For example, their latest study reveals that in the United Kingdom 8% of mobile sessions are now protected by an ad blocker, against only 2% in 2016. In Germany, the proportion rises to 13%. As for France, the figure of 20% has been cited by Le Monde newspaper, without it being possible to prove it. The verdict is in any case clear: ad blockers are rapidly becoming more popular on mobile.
Google, Microsoft … They’re all getting involved
Whose fault is it ? First perhaps the publishers and advertisers who have adapted advertising formats poorly for mobile use, placing multiple oversized pop-ups and banners. This has encouraged mobile users to get rid of these intrusive formats. As a consequence, Google has established a Coalition for Better Ads, which promotes the use of ad formats that respect the user experience. Ads that don’t meet this standard are blocked by the Chrome browser, including on mobile.
Although a member of the coalition, Microsoft has just chosen a much more radical approach. The company has announced that its Edge browser will soon integrate the AdBlock Plus extension by default! Even if Edge still has a limited market share among mobile browsers, the announcement is part of an unfavorable trend for mobile advertising.
Huge revenue losses for publishers and advertisers
Advertisers’ concerns are on a par with the losses associated with ad blockers. Already in 2016, Juniper Research predicted that the phenomenon could represent 27 billion dollars (23 billion euros) of losses on advertising revenues by 2020. Another institute, PageFair, for its part, put forward an equally alarmist figure: ad blockers could represent a shortfall of 19 billion euros per year just for content creators.
The Juniper Research report details the reasons for the massive adoption of mobile blockers:
The adoption is mainly due to the concerns of the users for their use of mobile data and confidentiality. Users are also interested in the reduction of load times that this technology allows.
Advertisers are all the more worried that this mass uptake is mainly by the youngest audiences, teenagers and young adults, who are the most valuable to them.
Give back control to the user: non-intrusive digital advertising
Is the generalization of blockers unstoppable? A recent study by IAB UK states that the best way to combat mass adoption is to provide transparency and control over the browsing experience. The ball appears to be in the court of the developers of browsers, not in that of advertisers: not very reassuring.
In fact, there is room for maneuver on the part of advertisers: first, by complying with the advertising standards set by the Coalition for Better Ads. Then, by diversifying their advertising investments, to gradually promote native advertising which isn’t impacted by ad blockers.
Better yet, almost half of entertainment site visitors say that sponsored content improves overall user experience (source: Edelman Berland / IAB). Still not convinced? Take a look at our full article: native advertising, why does it work.
No wonder then that advertiser investment is moving more and more towards this form of advertising. For example, an eMarketer study shows that spending in Europe is likely to increase between 2017 and 2020 from 8.3 to 13.2 billion euros, an increase of 60%!
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