Blocked: A Look Behind the Reasons for the Rise in Ad Blocking

Online advertising transformed the internet; it allowed massive companies to offer their content for free – from news titans such as CNN to search giants such as Google. However, we’re now at a point where one in ten users choose to block adverts in one form or another and the adoption of ad blockers is increasing – at a rapid rate.

Naturally, advertising firms are not happy about this- a reduction in numbers of users looking at adverts means a decrease in revenue. Most online adverts are sold as either CPM (cost per thousand views) or CPC/PPC (cost per click/pay per click of the advert). Less people viewing and clicking adverts does not bode well for the advertising industry or the publishers that sell advertising space. We’re going to take a look at how companies and organisations have been reacting:

Blocking the Adblockers

Some companies have decided that the way to deal with the rise of ad blockers is by blocking those who block the ads. Some recent examples of publishers taking this approach include Forbes and GQ – both of whom have run experiments to examine what the effects are if they request users with ad blocking software disable it for their websites; if users decline then they cannot access any content.

In the case of Forbes, this experiment was deemed as such a success, that they have enabled it as a sitewide permanent fixture on their website. They’re far from the only content creator in the news field that are doing this – The Atlantic, The Washington Post and City AM have all done the same.


Why are Users Blocking Ads?

To better understand the rapid uptake of adblockers, we need first to understand why users are blocking adverts. A really interesting study by Crystal iOS adblocking found that an astounding 71% of adblock software users would be perfectly happy seeing adverts.

This leaves us with a bit of a question – why are these 71% of users blocking ads in the first place? Well, to better understand this statistic we need to look at how this questions was phrased – it asked users if they’d be happy to whitelist sites that are “optimized for performance, maintain[ed] transparent privacy policies and only serve ads that meet “acceptable” criteria. This suggests that a significant number of users are open to allowing adverts – just ones that are aren’t percieved as intrusive.

A New Type of Advertising?

If research suggests that less intrusive online advertising is seen as permissible, then you may be left wondering if perhaps a new style of advertising could work. An example of non-intrusive adverts can be seen on Google’s sponsored link results – subtle adverts that don’t interrupt the browsing experience, are clearly marked as adverts and blend in with the rest of the page.

Okay great but there’s one massive catch – the reason adverts have evolved to be so intrusive and loud is because they work. It’s not because a cackling evil genius sat in a dark tower somewhere wanted to annoy as many people as possible; it’s because these ads get attention – and in turn bring in revenue.

A prime example of this comes from the world’s first ever banner ad from 1994. Placed on Wired Magazine’s website, this AT&T advert brought in an amazing 44% CTR (click through rate – the amount of users on a page that click on an advert). Now, compare this to the average 0.1% CTR on a banner advert in 2016 and the difference is enormous. The reason for this? Novelty. A new advertising style gets people interested but soon that colourful banner ad just blends with the background.


This all suggests that internet adverts need to be constantly changing to catch user’s attention. However, this isn’t a sustainable practice as very soon you’re left with the virtual equivalent of being trapped in a room full of sales people with megaphones.

All of this leaves the advertising industry in a Catch 22 situation – either make subtle adverts that users can live with but have them ignored or have loud advertising that users will seek to block.

Don’t despair though because we’re going to guide you through two alternatives to these methods that strike the balance between making users comfortable whilst remaining interesting to them.

Targeted Advertising

Have you ever been on a website and seen an advert that seems completely out of place? Whether it’s the fast food advert in the TV break for a documentary about obesity or the payday loan billboard placed next to a bailiff’s office – we’ve all seen adverts that shouldn’t have appeared where there are.

This extends to internet advertising too; it’s unlikely members of a skydiving forum are looking for the place to buy the best handmade tea cosies. Advertising should be targeted to users that have a genuine interest in the products or services that they feature. Not only does this stop wasting ad revenue by serving up irrelevant adverts but it keeps users interested and therefore highly likely to have a positive response to the advert.

Okay great, so we can advertise plant pots to Gardener’s World readers and headphones to audio enthusiasts. It makes sense but what about sites that have a broad user base? Take for example a news website; it’s likely visited by people of many different walks of life in many different locations. Well, this is where targeting comes in – all online major ad companies now include many different factors about user demographics. By using these tools, it becomes possible to either identify or predict what kind of specific products or services a user will be interested in.


Content Marketing

Content marketing is all about providing information to the marketplace, rather than selling to it. Instead of promoting a new product – the idea behind content marketing is that information and help makes the audience better informed. This provides a return on investment when users come to associate a brand with a specific area and buy their products or use their services.

Instead of being told about new product, users are given interesting information. Information they can engage with, share and actually implement. Content marketing provides users with a service in itself, instead of vying to grab an internet user’s attention – the user will actively go out in search of the information. What’s better than that for a brand?

The Future

The massive uptake in ad blockers sends a few key messages – some types of advertising annoy people far more than others, people are blocking all adverts because of a few highly intrusive adverts and the industry is in need of a change. As seen earlier in the post, banner ads have been around for 20 years in much the same form and on a network as fast paced as the internet; that’s an awfully long time. At Conker, we believe that those that we sell to should be though as the individuals that they are, not figures on a sales target report.

All the tools are in place to turn advertising into engaging content that is targeted to audience that do want to hear about it – it’s down to those advertising to choose how to implement them effectively.