Ad blockers: what do they mean for advertisers and their media budgets?

Sanne Kemner
Sanne KemnerMarketing ManagerMore about Sanne

[This article was originally published in Dutch on Emerce.nl. Click here to read the Dutch version]

Concern surrounding ad blockers is facing something of a resurgence of late. Main reason being Apple’s latest iOS release which allows ad blocking tools. Following the launch of iOS 9, ad blockers are topping the charts in the App Store, and according to the IAB ad blocker use rose by more than 40 percent since last year. This raises a number of pressing questions.

Who pays for blocked ads?

It seems obvious that blocked ad space is not charged to the advertiser, but how sure can advertisers be that their budgets are not being siphoned by this phenomenon? To answer that question, Bannerconnect conducted a series of tests.

The first test was run on different browsers using Adblock Plus (currently the most popular ad blocker) loading a few test pages with ads. After 9,500 separate tests, continually analysing the raw data and the cookies, we were able to conclude with certainty that no advertisements were registered. The advertiser definitely does not pay for blocked ads here.

Does the advertiser lose budget on ‘invisible’ ads?

There is a possibility that (some) ad blockers do not actually block the ad, but ensure that these are displayed off-screen. Although the ad is not necessarily blocked, for the consumer it is obviously still invisible, and therefore is a waste of advertising budget.

In a second test, we kept an eye on the visibility of ads that were part of an international campaign using certified viewability trackers. The analysis of the raw data, however, did not provide evidence that this is actually happening on a significant scale. Also, off-screen advertisements forfeit, so advertisers’ budgets are not impacted.

Could the rise of ad blockers cause other problems?

Advertisers can breathe a sigh of relief: Bannerconnect’s study proves that they do not pay for the cost of ad blockers on banned advertisements. Unfortunately, it’s not such good news for publishers, who lose out on inventory due to blocked ad space. They could decide to put ad-free content behind a paywall in response, but this could create problems for advertisers reaching target groups in the long-term.

We cite the highly educated gadget-lover or IT professional as an example. This development marks the beginning of the next phase in the evolution of online advertising and digital media industries. A stage where advertisers, buyers, and publishers must make a concerted effort to maintain the connection with the audience.

(How) can consumers be convinced against using any Ad Blocker?

Research shows that nearly half of all consumers use ad blockers because the ads displayed were not relevant to them. Increasing the relevance may therefore be an effective means to mitigate the growing use of ad blockers. Programmatic advertising makes this eminently possible.

With the automated purchasing of advertising space, the message can be quite precisely directed to the intended audience. As a result, the likelihood is much higher that the consumer will experience this type of advertising as an added interest, rather than a disturbing factor, removing the motive to block the advertisement.

Can the rising popularity of ad blockers stop this?

Programmatic is not the Holy Grail of advertising and won’t necessarily conquer all in the battle with ad blockers. However, by marketing communications more closely to the wishes and needs of consumers, it can make a significant contribution to solving the intrinsic problem that consumers are increasingly annoyed by ads that bring no added value to their online experience. The larger the value, the smaller after all, the impulse for downloading an ad blocker.

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