Is it Finally Time For SMBs To Worry About the Rise of Ad Blocking?

Ever since our last blog post on ad blocking in November 2015, the practice has continued to bedevil digital marketers and publishers and today shows no signs of stopping. According to a recent report from eMarketer, the number of people using ad blockers in the U.S. will climb from 69.8 million in 2016 to 86.6 million next year, accounting for 32% of all U.S. internet users. And what’s more, ad blocking is poised to make the jump from desktop (where it is currently prevalent) to mobile (where it isn’t). In some countries like in the U.K. and South Africa, blockers have even signed on with cell carriers to block ads at the network level, which covers in-app executions.

Publishers remain terrified of blockers, trying all manner of workarounds and technological solutions -- including blacklisting users who employ the technology -- to avoid losing a third of their revenue. Advertisers, represented in trade bodies like the IAB, have declared war on blockers and vowed to fight them by any means necessary, which includes doing their part to create faster and leaner ads that don’t drag on load times or interfere in the user experience. And in a fascinating wrinkle, Facebook recently came out and “blocked the blockers,” kicking off an arms race in which Adblock Plus and other blockers played cat and mouse with Facebook’s ban. Despite the rising chorus of opposition to blockers, an elegant solution remains elusive.

How does the SMB figure in all of this? The short answer is -- not very much.

The spectre of ad blocking shrinks quite a bit when you drill down into the demographics. The vast majority of ad blockers are young, male and well-off, according to recent research by comScore. These are high-value customers to some SMBs, but they do not represent the U.S. consumer writ large. Furthermore, the fact that these consumers are downloading ad blockers suggests that they were not good candidates for SMB advertising spend in the first place.

Even those consumers using ad blockers may not be opposed to all ads -- just bad ones that compromise privacy and negatively impact the user experience. For example, one ad block extension for Chrome called “The Fair Ad Blocker,” gives its users the option of opting into seeing ads on the condition that those users can redistribute a small percentage of revenue to charities. The result is that over 90% of their users agree to see ads -- and these were the folks who decided to block ads! What the Stands Fair Ad Blocker proves is that there is a balance to be found beneath all the strife.

So just like the recent crises around fraud and viewability, ad blocking is another incentive for advertisers to double down on making quality ads and delivering them to the right audiences. And that’s exactly what the right creative and programmatic advertising partner can do for companies serving SMBs.