While it’s too soon for the industry to declare victory in the war against ad blockers, ad blocking rates appear to be stabilizing in Europe.
Most online users would agree: when it comes to ads, the less disruptive, the better. As highlighted in recent research conducted by Hubspot, today’s ads are becoming increasingly nosy and intrusive. When such nuances persist, consumer frustration mounts and ultimately contributes to the soar of ad block adoption rates.
In recent years, adoption of ad blocking software has been extremely prevalent in Europe. Poor user experience is cited as the chief complaint among users, brought forth by a slew of issues, including: disruptive content, malware/security concerns, and slower loading times.
Although less of a significant influence, a greater demand for online privacy, especially in Germany and mainland European countries, is also driving people into the arms of ad blocking, as these programs generally disable cookies and trackers. As a result, publishers are increasingly moving toward content and native formats, as these can be monetized across all devices and yield much better returns.
Hope on the horizon?
While it’s too soon for the industry to declare victory in the war on ad blocking, there are certainly a few reasons as to why ad blocking adoption rates are losing momentum in Europe. These days, most publishers, led by Facebook and YouTube, are actively experimenting with ways to combat ad blocking –– from content locking strategies to encouraging users to whitelist, as well as steering away from intrusive ad tactics. Certain publishers in France found ad-block adoption rates stagnant at around 20%, though those in the field generally see use sitting at around 30% for web visitors.
Another factor contributing to ad block stagnation comes as a result of the shift toward mobile, where users are less inclined to have ad blocking software enabled on their devices – at least, for the time being. Finally, the simplest answer could be summed up by the fact that, similar to the rise and ebb of any wildly popular product, service and trend, the demand for ad blocking may just be reaching a natural plateau.
The anticipatory impact of mobile
Ad blocking on desktop has been a thorn in the side of European publishers for years, but it’s the threat of ad blocking on mobile that incites the greatest fear in digital media companies. The upside? Mobile ad-blocking isn’t a major issue at the moment.
Currently, mobile browsers and apps make it very difficult to install ad blockers. In the past, Apple and Google previously made ad blocking apps accessible to downloaded from their app store; however, these apps can only block ads within other apps that allow this level of access….making their effectiveness finite, at best.
Beyond development of new app technology, which is generally protected by Apple and Google’s app development rules, European mobile networks actually pose the biggest potential threat to publishers in this space. This is due to the fact that mobile operators are able to block advertising across apps and browsers by pre-installing software on the devices they sell. For mobile operators, ad blocking is a value add as it improves the user experience for their customers while reducing the data costs incurred by advertising.
Overall, however, it is unlikely that many network operators will adopt such an approach, simply due to the impact on the media industry they are so intrinsically linked to. Because everything is driven by data these days, mobile operators in Europe are increasingly moving towards zero-rate, media package acquisition models where customers get free access to incentives such as Spotify and/or television streaming. Blocking all ads would impact their ability to access valuable media partnerships.
Theorem Future Perspectives:
- Advertising was going the wrong way in Europe long before ad blocking became a sizable worry. Engagement with online ads has been declining since the first banner ads because the quality of advertising has not met user needs and expectations.
- Ad blockers are just a technology that enables the behavior of ad avoidance. The challenge isn’t about fighting ad blockers – it’s about improving the user experience to give brands the ability to communicate with consumers in a useful way.