How Bad Is the Ad-Blocking Problem, Anyway?

New research from the Interactive Advertising Bureau points out that a quarter of all internet users already block ads, which is not as bad as feared. With the study, IAB hopes to make the case that more lightweight ads can discourage ad-blocking.

One of the most attractive market segments for many associations is the most likely to tune out online advertising.

According to research released last month by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), adult males ages 18 to 34 tend to be the most likely to use ad blockers on their computers. They represent the largest chunk of the roughly 26 percent of computer users who use ad-blocking software and account for most of the 15 percent of smartphone users who block ads.

But what might be surprising about ad-blocking platforms is that they tend to be used a lot less than end users actually believe. IAB’s findings, the result of an analysis of 1,300 computer users and 201 mobile users, conducted by C3Research, showed that 40 percent of users think they’re using an ad blocker on their computers, but many of those users confuse their antivirus tools or pop-up blockers for ad blockers.

IAB, which has been focused on combating the ad-blocking issue in recent years, has doubled down on a key point of its prior research: It’s important for advertisers to focus on lighter, noninvasive ads, a key part of the association’s LEAN Ads program.

The study partly analyzed whether end users would be responsive to lightweight ads and as a result turn off their ad-blocking programs. Overall, the study found that the LEAN ads tended to encourage end users to either pause our turn off their ad blockers entirely.

“Once users hear about LEAN ads, Nonblockers would express few reasons to install an ad blocker, regardless of their propensity,” the study stated [PDF]. “They feel that their main frustrations with online advertising would be solved if the majority of websites they visit frequently held ads to LEAN standards.”

Alanna Gombert, IAB’s senior vice president for technology and ad operations and general manager of the association’s tech lab, said in a news release that the results were heartening, as the IAB Tech Lab hopes to launch a benchmarking tool for LEAN ads by the end of the year.

“The next step in bringing ad blocking consumers back into the fold is the establishment of a LEAN scoring system, which will allow for user experience to be measured against clear-cut benchmarks,” Gombert said.

IAB isn’t the only organization hoping to fix the problem. Digital Content Next, the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, and the Newspaper Association of America have all spoken up on the issue in the past year.

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a senior editor for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!