In many industries, digital advertising has virtually replaced the need for traditional print ads. After all, online advertising alone is a $149 billion annual business. So the big tech platforms that count on online advertising — like Facebook, YouTube, Google, and more — may not be so pleased to learn that consumers are rebelling against the idea of being forced to watch seemingly endless numbers of online ads.
It seems that internet users want to skip these advertisements by any means necessary. So much so that the use of worldwide ad-blocking software has shot up by 30% in just the last year.
Despite attempts by various platforms to block the use of this software, nearly 11% of all internet users used ad blockers in some way during the last year. This software isn’t relegated to just computers, either; smartphones and tablets now have ways to utilize ad-blocking software.
That 30% increase represents a loss that amounts to tens of billions of dollars for websites and publishers. Because these platforms rely on revenue from these ads, people who use ad blockers are breaking their implicit pact with these companies. Essentially, they’re getting to use a service for free with no consequences, while the websites are forced to take a huge financial hit.
Use of these blocking tools has become especially prevalent in Asian countries and the developing world. In Indonesia, approximately two-thirds of the population that access the internet uses such software. In fact, more than 90% of ad-blocking software used on mobile devices originates from the Asia-Pacific region. It’s often utilized by those who want to save money on their data plans. Since video advertisements eat up a substantial portion of that data, it makes sense that they’d want to remove them. All told, around 380 million smartphones and tablets used ad blocking software last year, representing a 39% increase in that sector alone.
But when ad blockers are used on desktop and laptop computers, it’s typically for another reason: users want to block malware that’s masquerading as advertising. This is an even more understandable reason to block digital ads, as malware poses a substantial threat to users’ privacy and safety while online. In contrast to the high percentage jump that smartphone ad blockers experienced, the use of ad blockers on computers jumped up only by 17% in the last year. Their use is mostly limited to the U.S. and Europe.
However, experts are predicting that this may change in the near future. Sean Blanchfield, chief executive of PageFair — the startup that published the initial report on the dramatic increase — said,
“In the U.S., ad-blocking on mobile is slightly immature. But there’s no doubt that people’s use of it will skyrocket.”
The problem is a significant one for the advertising and marketing industry.
Paul Verna, analyst at eMarketer, stated, “Ad blocking is a detriment to the entire advertising ecosystem.” But Verna noted that there is a way for marketers to fight back: “The best way for the industry to tackle this problem is to deliver compelling ad experiences that consumers won’t want to block.”