The inevitable maturation in the industry: Desktop ads blocking is at its peak

The use of desktop ads blockers has increased dramatically since the mid-2000s, as more users of the program became mainstream. The signs aren’t encouraging, however.

AudienceProject’s online survey, which surveyed more than 14,000 users in U.S., U.K. Germany, Denmark Sweden Norway, Finland and Sweden found that less respondents used ad-blockers in 2020 compared to four years earlier.

To take an instance from the U.S.: 41% of respondents indicated that they used an advertising blocker in the last round of the survey. The survey was done between April 2016 and June 2020. It is 52% compared with 52% in 2016. This was slightly less than the 39% who reported using an ad-blocker in 2016 and the 41% of respondents for 2020. There has been a decline in people saying that they use adblockers in the U.K.: 47% in 2016 and 41% by 2018.

AudienceProject also added an ad in the online survey. This allowed AudienceProject to use its measurement technology, to see if the respondents were using blocking software. While the majority of countries had fewer sessions blocked in 2016-2018 than 2020, some slight rises were noted in Germany, Sweden, and Finland.

Source: AudienceProject Insights 2020

GlobalWebIndex data shows that the average number of people who say they have used an advertising blocker has declined to 42%, from 49% the previous quarter and 46% for 2018. This compares with 49% the year before, 46% in 2018, and 48% in 2017.

There are many reasons why more people don’t use ad blockers. This could be due to a variety of factors, including the switch to browsing from mobile to desktop, and the fact that publishers and tech firms are being stricter about the placement and sound quality of ads.

Ben Williams is the director of advocacy for Adblock Plus, Eyeo’s owner. He acknowledged that Adblock Plus has been less popular than it was in recent years, due to the number of people using their desktop computers.

Although desktop ad-blocking has decreased, mobile blocking rose worldwide by 64%, to 527million users in 2016, according to Blockthrough . Blockthrough helps publishers recover revenue that was lost due to adblocking. This increase was mainly driven mainly by Indian and Asian users, particularly via adoption of UC’s mobile browser. At the end of 2019, it was said to have over 400 million monthly active users.

However, the U.S. market has seen a significant increase in users blocking ads on mobile devices. AudienceProject’s research showed that just 7 percent of U.S. citizens were found to have blocked ads on their mobile phones in 2020. That is an increase from the 5% reported in 2018.

The ad sector has seen a lot of change since Williams block of ads in the mid-2000s. California Consumer Privacy Bill and EU’s General Data Protection Regulation have made it more transparent for publishers about which data they use to advertise and what value is received in return. A few publishers moved to stop adblocker users viewing their content. The digital advertising industry became increasingly aware of annoying ads as it grew in popularity.

An alliance of industry bodies and businesses, which included Google, GroupM. Procter & Gamble. The Interactive Advertising Bureau, World Federation of Advertisers, and Procter & Gamble formed the Coalition for Better Ads in 2016. Venable, an international law firm, led the effort to find a number of intrusive ad formats for the industry. In 2018, Google Chrome created a filter in order to block ads that aren’t compliant with the Coalition’s ad standard.

Neal Thurman from the Coalition for Better Ads stated that since the beginning of discussions to form the group in 2016, the number of adblocker installations on desktop Chrome in North America has decreased by 60%.

Source: Coalition for Better Ads

Thurman stated, although he is not going to accept all the credit: “Our standard have had some effect in cleaning up what was the worst experience that really pushed customers to stop blocking ads.”

Source: Coalition for Better Ads

It’s the natural maturation of [digital advertisement],” he stated. “We’ve shown ourselves — all the numbers demonstrate that we’re now greater than TV or print combined — now we need to work out which eggs we broke in getting there.”

Browser extensions played a major role in preventing ads from being blocked back then. These browsers have anti-tracking, ad blocker and tracking features built in. Apple Safari has its Intelligent Tracking Prevention function; Firefox offers Enhanced Tracking Protection; Microsoft Edge provides Enhanced Tracker Prevention. Adblock Browser blocks ads by default in mobile browsers like UC Browser (Brave), Opera Mini and Opera Mini).

Marty Kratky Kartz, CEO Blockthrough, stated that “we have observed a diversification of the types and ad blocking.” One example is that its prior research to observe ad-blocker usage — as inferred from the number of downloaded files from the Open Source EasyList blocklist blocklist — does not capture Firefox browser’s blocker, when users use the Disconnect.me blockinglists. Kratky Katz asserted that, in general, there’s “more darkness,” as certain ad blocking software may go unnoticed.

The AudienceProject survey indicates that consumers’ attitudes to ads are changing. Nearly half of respondents surveyed thought ads on sites were unacceptable. The U.K. had 54% fewer people who viewed ads online in 2020 than it did in 2018, (57%). The U.S. however had 42% more respondents than 2018 (42%), but this year, there was a 47 percent increase in negative attitudes.

Williams comments that Ad blocking turned into ad filters in the same time period. Most ad-blocking devices allow ads pass today if they’re more considerate of user experience,” Williams says. “This is good news. It means there will be more ads, but less users who are annoyed by them — not even those called ‘ad blockers.