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Ad Block Trends in Digital Advertising in 2021

January 13, 2021

Many exciting marketing trends promise to take 2021 by storm. However, not all of them are thrilling the digital advertising and publishing industry. One might prove to be a significant obstacle that both publishers and marketers will have to overcome:

Ad blockers.

According to eMarketer’s estimates, 27% of users will use ad blockers in 2021, and they expect that number will continue to rise. Unfortunately, that means many publishers will have their primary revenue streams interrupted and cut off at the source.

Is that a problem about which you need to be concerned? Perhaps. Depending on your target audience and your use of ads, the damage might be negligible. However, many publishers are looking for ways to secure their income despite blockers rising in popularity.

Why Are People Turning to Ad Blockers?

According to a study by HubSpot, the statistics surrounding the use of blockers are fascinating and reveal how visitors feel about advertising. For example:

  • 64% find it annoying and intrusive.
  • 54% say it’s disruptive and ruins their experience.
  • 39% think ads are a security risk.
  • 36% dislike the slow loading times and bandwidth use.
  • 33% find the ads they’re shown offensive and inappropriate.

Unfortunately, users are right about several of these issues. Through poor placement practices and substandard ads, advertisers and publishers are partially responsible for visitors turning to ad blockers.

You’re creating top-quality content, and that’s why readers are visiting your page. Many of these visitors understand the need for advertisements and subscription fees, and they don’t turn to ad blockers out of a malicious desire to deprive you of an income.

In fact, 83% of users say that ads aren’t that bad, and 77% would prefer to use filters rather than blockers. Additionally, 68% don’t mind seeing them at all, but only if they don’t disrupt the browsing experience.

It’s not the advertisements themselves that offend, but the way they’re executed.

The Worst Offenders

There are many different types of advertisements, but there are a few offenders that users consider “extremely annoying:”

  • Most hated: Pop-up ads. 73% of users find these to be the most disruptive. When the “close” button isn’t clearly visible, the experience is even worse.
  • Runner-up: Mobile ads. 70% of users dislike mobile advertisements and use ad blocking software on their devices. Of these, 73% dislike full-screen ads.
  • Third place: Video ads. 57% of users don’t enjoy ads that play before video content loads, but they’re willing to tolerate them. However, when ads interrupt playback or play automatically, viewers are less forgiving of the disruptive experience and may immediately leave your website.

While these statistics look damning for the future of ad revenue, that’s not the case. Instead, they’ve fundamentally changed how advertisers and publishers approach the creation, placement, and execution of their campaigns.

Interestingly, 74% of users think that ad blockers are making a positive impact on user experience and may lead to better advertising practices.

Popular Ad Blocking Tools

Ad blockers generally fall into one of five categories:

  • Browsers (Brave, Opera, Tor, iOS Onion Browser, etc.)
  • Browser extensions (AdBlock Plus, AdBlock, uBlock Origin, Ghostery, etc.)
  • Stand-alone applications (AdGaurd, AdLock, Wipr, etc.)
  • Mobile apps (AdAway, 1Blocker X, etc.)

Developers didn’t design these applications to prevent publishers from generating ad revenue but to improve user experiences. Top blockers, such as AdBlock and Brave, implemented Acceptable Ads practices to deliver approved, non-disruptive ads.

What Can Publishers Do?

How will ad blockers affect your revenue stream? With the software costing publishers approximately $78 billion globally, it’s a valid concern. Luckily, there are a few ways you can preserve your income and provide a quality user experience.

Hard and Soft Messaging

Hard messaging is effectively a paywall. If users don’t disable their ad blockers or register for a paid subscription, websites will prevent them from accessing the content. While it may seem like a good idea, you’re potentially driving away readers permanently.

Soft messaging is similar in that it also displays a request that visitors turn off their ad blockers or make a small donation. However, these dialogs can be closed without the user taking any additional action.

Ad Recovery With Acceptable Ads

If there’s a right way to negate the revenue-ruining effects of blockers, it’s through Ad Recovery via Acceptable Ads. The process follows a few simple steps:

When a visitor arrives on your website, the technology scans for the presence of ad blockers. If it doesn’t find any, regular advertisements are delivered. However, if a blocker is detected, an Acceptable Ad is presented instead.

Unlike regular advertisements, Acceptable Ads must meet specific criteria. The requirements differ depending on your chosen platform, but the focus is always on providing high-quality, undisruptive ad experiences.

However, that’s not the only reason why we recommend and use Acceptable Ads.

Users want to support websites that provide them with excellent content. Even the creator of AdBlock Plus, the first blocker, realized how his software could hurt honest publishers financially. It’s why his company pioneered Acceptable Ads and why the industry is starting to adapt to the new standards.

Even though the advertising industry is still somewhat hesitant to work through these “quality control middle-men,” the service is quickly gaining traction among responsible publishers and marketers.

What You Shouldn’t Do

Many of the biggest publishing websites are forcing users to turn off their ad blockers before they can view content. While that might seem like a brilliant workaround, it’s not something we’d recommend. Not only is it ineffective, but it may drive visitors away permanently:

  • 32% of users won’t turn off their ad blocker for any reason.
  • 28% will stop using the website entirely.

A poorly chosen advertising partner may expose your visitors to security risks.

In early 2016, notable security researcher Brian Baskin decided to disable his blocker to access Forbes.com. Within seconds an infected ad tried to deliver malware onto his system. Although improper vetting was the ad agency’s mistake, Forbes.com received the bulk of the negative feedback and backlash.

Instead of trying to force your visitors to change their habits, try to adopt better practices.

Conclusion

Publishers shouldn’t consider ad blockers as technological behemoths out to destroy their revenue streams. Instead, the software's rising popularity is pushing advertisers to create quality ads and adopt better practices. By partnering with a network that provides Ad Recovery services and Acceptable Ads, you’ll increase your income while thrilling your visitors.

is the Adtech Product Lead at Softonic. As Adtech Product Lead, Richard is responsible for improving overall revenue and ad performance for all our properties, including Rev·Amp, Softonic’s new publisher monetization platform. Within Rev·Amp Richard oversees development for the Rev·Amp monetization stack, both innovations and the improvement of existing technologies.
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