Pros & Cons of Ad-blocking: A User’s Perspective

The headline of a recent New York Times article reads both as a title and as a cautionary memo to marketers: The Rise of Ad-Blocking Software Threatens Online Revenue. Facebook, Google and other media companies are worried about the potential impact of ad-blockers reducing media reach (and revenue).

Based on the data from PageFair, a startup that helps advertisers circumvent ad-blockers, about 2% of mobile device users in the US are blocking ads. Although this percentage is low compared to other regions — about a third of Asia’s mobile users reportedly block ads — this trend is predicted to rise.

Apple enabled ad-blocking early this year with iOS 9. Browsers like Chrome and Firefox allow for extensions and add-ons that block ads. Opera announced inMarch that it now offers native ad-blocking as an opt-in function.

There are a few reasons why consumers are adopting ad-blockers:

  • Quicker page loads — Faster performance from not having to download the images, scripts and analytics code that bloat file sizes.
  • Aesthetically, web pages are more reader-friendly — The clutter of banners are replaced by white space.
  • Blocking ads is also better for wallets — Especially for those on mobile, the reduction in bandwidth use can help lower data costs.

Above: A side-by-side comparison of a NY Times article with ads (left), versus the same article viewed with Opera’s ad-blocker activated.

The New York Times created an interactive infographic on the cost of mobile ads to provide more illustrative detail on the cost of mobile ads to users. While the graphic is telling, there are reasons for not using ad-blocking software:

  • Browsing data privacy risk — Some ad blocking software may be sending your browsing behaviour to a third-party server.
  • Risk of web pages breaking — Blocking page scripts may hamper the functionality of some websites and lead to a broken browsing experience
  • Moral adherence to the implicit advertiser-reader contract — Advertising helps fund media outlets. Hindering the earning potential of your favourite websites is detrimental to these sites’ well-being and could lead to the end of said favourite websites.

If this trend puts the projected results of a future marketing media buy at risk, then now is a good time to start thinking about alternative ways for reaching your target audience. There is added pressure for digital marketers to think more creatively about how they approach their paid, owned and earned media to reach their target audiences — and to re-visit what advertisements could look like.