7 common misconceptions about adblock users

7 common misconceptions about adblock users

Before Google decided to deprecate third-party cookies and before GDPR was a thing—publishers were preoccupied with a revenue risk of another kind: The so-called ‘adblockalypse’.

Rings a bell? In the last two years, Blockthrough has helped publishers recover more than $80 million in advertising revenue, which would have otherwise been lost to adblocking. We monetize more than 2B adblock pageviews each month—that’s 2,000,000,000 pageviews for full effect.

We also invest a lot of time and resources into understanding adblock users, what motivates them, how they think, their likes and dislikes, etc. To us, one thing is clear: A lot of publishers still don’t truly understand adblock users. This post presents the 7 most common misconceptions we hear about adblock users, along with information, stats, and facts to back up why they’re wrong.

Let’s dive in!

“Adblock users hate all forms of advertising”

If a user installs an adblocker, it seems logical to assume that they hate all forms of advertising and are signaling their intention to not view any ads. Our research shows that most adblock users are not ideologically opposed to advertising, but instead frustrated by some formats, such as animated ads, pre-roll video ads, auto-playing audio, and ads that obstruct content.

Notice a pattern? All these formats are highly interruptive. In our 2021 Adblock Report, 81% of adblock users picked “interruptive ad experiences” as their leading motivation for installing an adblocker. At the same time, adblock users know that publishers rely on ad revenue, and 82% prefer receiving a lighter ad experience by default to support their favorite sites and creators.

Because adblock users are not constantly bombarded with poor ad experiences, they are more ‘ad aware’, or in other words, less likely to experience banner blindness. Since bots don’t install adblockers, publishers who monetize their adblock users with light, respectful advertising also witness a reduction in invalid traffic and increase in average revenue per user (“ARPU”).

“Asking users to turn off their adblocker works”

At first glance, this strategy seems to make sense. If users installed adblockers at some point, perhaps they’ll turn it off if you just asked them nicely? If you impress upon them the importance of advertising in keeping the lights on? If they trusted you as a publisher? Right?

Unfortunately—wrong. Recall that we previously mentioned that 81% of users install adblockers to avoid interruptions. What’s more interruptive than a pop-up that takes over their entire screen and asks them to do something before accessing content? Users have a finite amount of attention, and adblock walls compete for that attention against other prompts such as privacy notices, newsletter sign-ups, and subscription offers. Due to these reasons, adblock walls end up further annoying users and suffer from low conversion (10-20%) and high bounce rates.

Even if a user complies with the request and turns off their adblocker, they’re likely to turn it back on during repeat visits when they encounter the unfiltered, full-throttle ad experience that they are motivated to avoid. Once you lose a user in this manner, it’s harder to win them back. You end up permanently losing the majority of your adblock visitors in order to monetize the few.

“It’s better to leave adblock users alone”

Some publishers, for a variety of different reasons, actively choose not to do anything about adblock users visiting their sites. These reasons can include:

  • Believing that adblock users have signaled their intent and it should be respected
  • Not being sure about the privacy/consent implications of adblock recovery
  • Leaning on the “wait and watch” strategy, wanting a clear solution to emerge
  • Believing that the associated revenue opportunity is not worth their time
  • Having a dev roadmap filled with priorities that don’t include adblock users

Whatever the reason—not solving for adblock revenue leakage means leaving a significant chunk of your revenue on the table. Based on an analysis of >10B pageviews recorded across 9,453 websites, we found that the average adblock rate across geos and IAB categories is 21%. In other words, many publishers are missing the opportunity to monetize a fifth of their audience.

As the world’s leading dedicated Acceptable Ads vendor, Blockthrough has data to back up the claim that adblock recovery can make substantial, long-term revenue contribution. Depending on factors like pageviews, traffic geo, CPMs, and content vertical, our customers are able to create incremental revenue streams ranging from $10k/month to $100k/month or more.

Want proof? Check out this Adweek exclusive story about how Blockthrough helped Comscore Top-10 publisher CafeMedia generate an incremental revenue stream of >$100k/month.

“It’s hard to monetize adblock users”

Web publishers have dealt with a lot in the last few years: GDPR, CCPA, other four-letter privacy regulations, loss of 3P cookies, solving for identity resolution, seasonal and nonseasonal ad spend pullback, to name a few. Somewhere along the way, many publishers parked adblocking as a problem that was either “too difficult” or wasn’t worth the squeeze.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Today, revenue leakage caused due to adblocking is one of the easiest problems to address, and also the one with the most immediate payback. Acceptable Ads provide an easy, privacy-compliant, and consent-based mechanism for monetizing adblock users with standard IAB display ads that meet the Standard’s criteria for size, placement, and distinction.

Publishers can get started without making changes to their existing ad tech infrastructure and recover their direct-sold and programmatic demand to adblock users. Blockthrough provides a single-line JavaScript integration that detects adblock users, confirms whether or not they are opted into Acceptable Ads, and then calls the publisher’s ad server to serve compliant creatives.

The result? A dependable stream of revenue that doesn’t annoy your adblock users.

Case in point: Read this AdExchanger article on how Blockthrough helped AccuWeather and Freestar generate steady revenue through the ad spend turbulence caused by Covid-19.

“Desktop adblocking is past its peak”

Desktop monthly active users (“MAUs”) of adblocking grew 345% between 2013 and 2016, going from 62M to 276M. During this time, a large number of users adopted adblocking, propelled by the growing availability of different tools and extensions that allowed them to easily block ads and the need to avoid interruptive experiences like pre-roll ads on YouTube.

Between 2016 and 2020, this growth stagnated, leading many to believe that desktop adblocking was past its peak. In 2020, Digiday published an article titled, “The inevitable maturation of the industry: Desktop ad blocking is past its peak”, presenting perspectives from various stakeholders about the stagnation, possible causes, and what it meant for publishers.

And that would have been the end of the story. However, recent data suggests that in the last two years, desktop adblocking has crawled its way back to previous all-time-highs from 2018. By our estimates, 290M desktop devices were blocking ads by the end of 2021, a number that has grown 22% between Q1 2020 and Q4 2021. It’s too soon to say whether or not this retracing is temporary, but it does indicate that desktop adblocking is not past its peak just yet.

“Acceptable Ads is run by adblock companies”

Acceptable Ads Standard was created with the intention to establish a middle ground between publishers and adblock users. Its underlying hypothesis was that if publishers could remove the most intrusive and annoying ads from their website, adblock users may find the experience “acceptable”—and in this way, publishers could generate some revenue instead of none.

While it’s true that eyeo, the German company that makes some of the most widely used adblockers in the world, created the Acceptable Ads Standard, in 2017, the governance of the Standard was handed off to the non-profit, independently governed Acceptable Ads Committee.

As noted on eyeo’s blog: “There needed to be a separation. That is, if we were going to be the cops enforcing the law, there needed to be a separate congress deciding what the laws were. Since nothing like this had ever been done before, we consulted the digital advertising industry, first in a listening session in New York and then another in London. The result was the AAC.”

Today, the AAC includes voting members representing digital rights organizations, adblock users, publishers, advertisers, agencies, ad tech companies, designers, UX experts, and researchers.

No single entity can make unilateral decisions on what the Standard includes, how it is enforced, and who gets to participate. The result is a Standard designed to work in the interest of building a better Web and serving more than 200M users who filter their ad experience.

“Acceptable Ads and Better Ads are the same”

Acceptable Ads Standard and Better Ads Standard share a common goal: To clean up intrusive and annoying advertising experience on the Web. But that’s where the similarity ends.

While Better Ads Standard was created to reduce or at least slow down the growth of adblocking by improving the overall quality of advertising on the Web, Acceptable Ads Standard was created to address revenue that publishers are losing right now due to adblocking.

Another difference is that while a lot of recommendations put forth by the Better Ads Standard are guidelines that responsible publishers should follow to improve the quality of advertising, the rules laid down by the Acceptable Ads Standard are more stringent, and inability to comply with the requirements of the Standard might mean being excluded from participating in it.

We believe that both Standards are doing crucial work in making the Web more sustainable for advertisers, publishers, and users alike. Publishers who can should participate in both.

Tl;dr?

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