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Common Questions About Adblocking

Adblocking refers to various techniques that prevent the display of advertising on web pages. Most adblocking is performed by browser plugins, which can be quickly added to most web browsers, and which are generally free and open-source. More rarely, adblocking can also be done by network proxy servers that are configured in the home or in an ISP.
Adblocking generally blocks all ads on all web pages by default; most adblocking plugins do not require the user to make a decision on whether to block ads on an individual basis. A single bad experience with advertising can lead someone to install adblocking, removing all ads from their entire browsing experience in a single stroke.

Thus, entertaining, useful, and respectful ads get blocked along with those annoying ads that are driving the growth of adblocking.

Adblocking is effective against the majority of native, video, image, and interactive ads.

Globally, usage of ad blockers grew by 41% YoY (Q2 2014 – Q2 2015). As of June 2015, there were 198 million monthly active users for the major browser extensions that block ads.

Adblocking has gone mainstream, and is growing rapidly.

Country figures:

  • Usage of adblockers in the United States grew by 48% from mid 2014 – 2015, increasing to 45 million average monthly active users in Q2 2015.
  • Adblocking use in Europe grew by 35% over the same period, increasing to 77 million monthly active users in Q2 2015.
  • Adblocking use in the UK increased by 82% during the year, reaching 12 million average monthly active users in Q2 2015.
  • Adblocking use in Germany increased by 17% during the past year, reaching 18 million average monthly active users in Q2 2015.
Explore data
The most popular form of adblocking (in the United States and Europe) is done by adblocking extensions installed in web browsers. Here is how they operate.

Normally when a web page loads the user’s web browser makes requests to servers for editorial and advertising content.

Normal page load without adblocking installed.

Adblocking extensions have the power to control what requests a web browser makes. They monitor all requests made by the browser and refuse any requests that match an entry contained in a blacklist. The most popular of these advertising blacklists is ‘Easylist’, which is maintained by a large community and updated regularly.

Adblocking extension prevents browser making request for ad from ad server.

When ads are blocked the spaces where they would have appeared are now left empty.

Space on the web page is now left vacant by ads.

The adblocking extensions generally reflow the editorial content to occupy the space vacated by the advertising (using CSS styling).

Content is reflowed to occupy space left by blocked ads.

From the web user’s perspective the result is a cleaner redesign of the web page, and the page loads much faster because no ads are being transferred. From the publisher’s perspective the result is an inability to monetize the web user.

The chart shows the results of a survey of adblocking users in the United States conducted by PageFair.

For many people, adblocking dramatically improves web pages by removing clutter.
Adblocking was originally popular as a way to eliminate annoying pop-up ads, and to speed up slow internet connections. Today, it is also a good defence against ads containing malware and to protect privacy.

  • In our 2014 survey 48% of respondents claimed they use blockers to ‘remove all ads’.
  • 25% of respondents in 2014 installed an adblock plug-in due to concerns over performance and privacy.
  • Respondents in 2014 were motivated by annoying advertising: 27% cited specific ads as the reason they installed an adblocker. Unskippable pre-roll video and interstitial ads were particular offenders.
  • When we surveyed adblocking users in 2015 the primary reason (selected by 50% of respondents) to install adblockers was concern about misuse of personal information to personalize ads.
  • 41% of respondents in 2015 said that increasing quantity of advertising was a cause to install adblocking.

On mobile connections adblocking is also a means of reducing data costs.

We conducted a survey of U.S. internet users to identify the key demographics who use adblocking and their attitudes towards online advertising.
Our findings reveal that the usage of adblocking is driven primarily by male millennial internet users.

In short, gamers, geeks and millennials. Adblocking use is higher among males.

  • Adblocking is exceptionally popular with millennials. Peak usage is with 18-29 year olds, 41% of whom claim to use adblock software.

The phenomenon is now spreading into the mainstream. As an example of this trend consider Asus, a major manufacturer of phones and laptops, which recently announced that it would supply all of its future machines with adblocking installed.

The ‘blocked web’, the portion of the Web where users block ads, is steadily growing. This is creating a new, premium segment.

While this is causing short term pain to publishers it actually opens up a new and entirely uncluttered (and zero fraud) segment that brands can reach using PageFair’s adserving technology.

Provided publishers and advertisers address this segment respectfully (and address genuine consumer issues of privacy, security, and speed) this growing segment is a boon to brands seeking an uncluttered premium space for above the line brand building.

Today there are two categories of user who visit your site: users of the normal web who see all ads, and users of the blocked web who currently see so ads and are of particular interest to premium advertisers.

Media buyer’s view of the normal segment

  • Users have an acute attention deficit because the web is over-cluttered with advertising.
  • It is affected by ad fraud.
  • The ads these users see tend to be focussed on the bottom of the marketing funnel.

Media buyer’s view of the blocking segment

  • There is no advertising clutter. Users see no other ads.
  • There is no ad fraud.
  • This segment can provide a premium top of funnel tool for brand building.

Presented at the Advertising Research Foundation, San Fransisco, 2016

Explore adblocking around the World

Industry Reports and Whitepapers

Adblocking Goes Mobile

Published: May 2016
Format: PDF


The Cost of Adblocking

Published: August 2015
Format: PDF


Adblocking Goes Mainstream

Published: September 2014
Format: PDF


The Rise of Adblocking

Published: August 2013
Format: PDF


What To Do About Adblocking

Published: February 2016
Note: written by PageFair for the International News Media Association (INMA). this is an INMA members-only resource.