Adblocking goes mobile

By David Murphy

Mobile Marketing Magazine

London, United Kingdom


To date, adblocking has largely been a desktop phenomenon. Considering the fact most publishers are seeing their proportion of mobile traffic increase while desktop traffic decreases, this is one small crumb of comfort in what are increasingly challenging times.

But it’s one that publishers may not be able to cling to for much longer.

Earlier this month, the Interactive Advertising Bureau released the research results it commissioned from YouGov that showed adblocking adoption in the United Kingdom had plateaued at 22%.

An increasing amount of ads are being blocked on mobile devices.
An increasing amount of ads are being blocked on mobile devices.

But AdBlock Plus, one of the main suppliers of adblocking software, was quick to point out the research failed to take into account the rise in the number of mobile adblocking users.

Mobile adblockers, in fact, now outnumber their desktop counterparts. According to the most recent numbers from Pagefair, which helps publishers serve lighter ads (in data terms) to users who have installed adblockers, there are 615 million devices blocking ads globally — 62% of which are mobile devices.

If the majority of publishers are in denial over these figures, it’s perhaps understandable. After all, virtually all mobile adblocking activity currently centres on APAC, where the Alibaba-owned UC mobile browser, with adblocking built in, holds sway. But this is a situation that is unlikely to persist for much longer.

“Last year we saw a huge growth in mobile adblockers, and this year we’re seeing the exact same,” said Ben Williams, head of operations and communications at AdBlock Plus. “Yet this trend in mobile adblocking won’t be exclusive to the APAC region alone. As mobile adblocking software capitalises in other regions and users become wary (sic) of this, it won’t come as much of a surprise if other regions such as Europe and North America also experience similar growth.”

These thoughts sound remarkably similar to what Pagefair CEO Sean Blanchfield told delegates at a digital advertising event in February. Pointing to the popularity of the UC browser in Asian markets, he said: “It will happen — mobile adblocking is on the way. All that’s holding it back over here is the availability of a high-quality piece of mobile software so I don’t know when it will happen, but I’m sure it will.”

On a brighter note, Blanchfield claimed adblocker users who are served ads are actually quite receptive to them. Pagefair makes its money by working with around 9,000 Web sites to provide them with data on how many of their visitors have adblockers deployed. It also works with around 100 Web sites using the firms anti-adblocking technology to serve less intrusive ads that adblockers can’t block.

The company’s own research, Blanchfield said, suggests adblocker users tend to be attention-rich and well-educated. They also respond positively to the stripped-back ads Pagefair displays to users on its client publisher sites that have an adblocker deployed.

According to Pagefair’s research, the two types of ads consumers with adblockers most like are at opposite ends of the spectrum: static banners, perhaps because of their simplicity and lightweight; and skippable video, perhaps because it is skippable. Auto-play audio ads and non-skippable video ads are the most disliked, with adblock users “neutral” about native ads.

If what Blanchfield said is right, then Pagefair could soon be seeing a lot more interest in its ad-serving-to-adblocker-user technology. Everyone recognises the fact that the whole world has gone mobile. Now adblocking, it seems, is going the same way, too.

About David Murphy

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