It’s clear by now that discontent with ad tech’s effect on the Web is driving more people to block ads. Autoplay video, hard-to-close interstitials and rampant, off-putting retargeting are forcing Web users to install ad blockers en masse in an effort to improve their browsing experiences — much to the chagrin of the industry. There are 198 million active ad block users around the world.
Here’s what’s motivating people — and why those motivations are slightly different on desktop compared to mobile.
Desktop ad blocking is driven by intrusive ad formats
The more intrusive ads get, the more likely people are going to want to block them. Over 80 percent of ad blocker users say that website usability is the primary reason they run ad blocking software, according to a 2014 poll from PageFair, which sells software that helps publishers punch through ad blockers.
Mobile users are more concerned with speed, performance
All the major reasons that people run ad blockers on desktop — avoiding intrusive ads, speeding up page performance — are more acute on mobile. Mobile screens are smaller, meaning that banner ads take up a proportionally larger part of the screen. More, the battery and data drains caused by more visual ads, particularly video, are a bigger issue for those with unreliable cellular connections. Poll data backs this up as well: Over 60 percent of people said that reducing visual clutter and speeding up loading time are their two biggest reasons to running mobile ad blocking software, according to iOS ad blocker Crystal.
Privacy isn’t a big priority (except maybe in Europe)
Ad tech may be increasingly driven by targeting people based on their browsing activity and personal data, but privacy is a tertiary motivation for running ad blockers. Only 17 percent of those polled by PageFair said it was their top concern, compared to 22 percent of those in the Crystal poll.
Those numbers are likely to be very different in parts of Europe, where ad blocking rates can run as high as 30 percent. History offers an explanation. “There are many people in Poland, Germany and elsewhere that have living relocation of secret police forces, so it makes sense as to why privacy is going to be a bigger deal there,” said PageFair CEO Sean Blanchfield
Ad blocker users aren’t entirely against advertising
Many in the industry like to argue that the sharp rise in ad blocking adoption isn’t a product of digital ads, but rather bad ads. Self-serving, maybe, but plenty of ad blocker users agree. Nearly three-quarters (71 percent) of those polled by Crystal said that their issue isn’t with advertising, and that they’d be willing to whitelist non-obtrusive ad blockers and publishers.
“Theres a pocket of people who say consumers don’t like ads — period. But that argument is oversimplistic and naïve,” said Jason Kint, CEO of Digital Content Next. “There will always be a small group that just don’t like ads on their screens, but most people now are being triggered by the effect this is having on their user experience.”