Why advertisers don’t need to stress about ad blocking

Jul 21st, 2015

Ad blocking has attracted media attention recently, partly triggered by the announcement that Apple’s latest Safari release will include ad blocking tools. Do online advertisers need to be concerned?

Ad blocking software prevents display ads from loading, ostensibly making for a cleaner and faster web browsing experience. According to an Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) report, 15% of UK adults online are currently using ad blocking software because they find ads “annoying” and “interruptive”.

why people block online ads by the IAB

However, the IAB research also shows that only a fifth of respondents have ever downloaded ad blocking software; of those who use it, only half said they blocked all ads.

In addition, although the IAB figures appear dramatic, a study last year by PageFair and Adobe found that less than 5% of internet users use ad blocking software.

Display ads are getting more clicks than last year

Click through rates (CTRs) for display ads are actually up by 23% YoY while costs per click (CPCs) are down – and the gap between the two has widened substantially over the last year, according to Adobe Digital Index’s Digital Advertising Report for Q2 2015.

The report attributes this to slicker delivery and marketers improving optimisation, stating: “Visually based ads are an important aspect in advertising. Marketers have greatly increased their spend on Google and Yahoo! Bing for visually based product listing ads. Display ads, which typically have very low CTRs, are becoming more efficient and should be considered in a marketers’ overall digital marketing strategy.”

global display ad CPC and CTR growth ADI

An opportunity to target a more relevant audience

Taking all of this into account, suggestions that ad blocking will lead to the demise of online advertising need to be taken with a pinch of salt.

Carmen Jones, Click’s Senior Paid Search Executive, says: “There’s been more coverage about ad blocking lately, but many of these tools are not new and have been around for a number of years.

“Of course, there could be an impact on reach, but we need to keep things in proportion. No channel or platform is perfect; each has its own barriers which would prevent it from reaching all of a target audience whether it is email marketing, print media, TV advertising etc. The benefit of online advertising though, is that the number of users is constantly growing.

“It can also be argued that if a user were to install ad blocker software, they would unlikely be someone who would click on paid ads anyway. This means while impressions may reduce, the click through rate could increase as we are targeting more relevant users.”


The key messages for advertisers:

  • Visual ads continue to play an important role in online marketing strategy, with CTRs up and CPCs down for display.
  • A closer look at the stats shows that people using ad blockers are in the minority and still less opt to filter out all online ads.
  • Focus on developing high quality ads that don’t feel intrusive and campaigns that are tightly focused on a relevant audience.
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