Ad blockers are being used by 22% of British adults, according to the Internet Advertising Bureau, up from 18% in October of last year.

It’s a figure that has been rising study on study, influenced by the flurry of press coverage over tools which syphon revenue from publishers who only get paid for advertisements that are viewable on their websites. 

The study released today was conducted in partnership with YouGov and summoned the response of 2,049 adults, approximately the same as October’s sample. 

The new results show ad blockers to be highly popular among 18-24 year olds (47%), with usage becoming less prevalent among the 45-54 age category (16%).

From 15% in early June, the proportion of Brits that are using this technology has increased by a small amount in each IAB review, with the latest report providing reasons as to why this is happening.

Adoption continues to rise

Results from the same study last October showed over half of Brits (57%) are looking to tools like Adblock Plus – available as an extension and purpose-built browser – to block all forms of inventory when they visit a website. This is happening despite repeated warnings from groups like the IAB regarding how the internet and a large chunk of its free content is funded by these ads.

There were several pointers to be taken from the results, though, as 48% of the group admitted they were less likely to block ads that didn’t interfere with what they were doing.

Other results delivered hints to advertisers about their volume of ads delivered among other factors that drive people to use ad blockers.

A certain sense of confusion for advertisers and publishers comes in the form of a small amount of fluctuation for these rates. These include decreases in the proportion of Brits that are less likely to block ads on the basis of them being intrusive (45% in February, down from 48% in October), too heavy in volume (29%, down from 36%) and not relevant enough (12%, down from 14%). 

Since the point about ads loading faster (9%) from last October, ad servers like Google have been forcing a wider switchover to HTML5 – the plugin causing the demise of the slower, perceptively less safe Adobe Flash.  

David Hartley, product innovations director at Data2Decisions, predicted that while ad blocking is undoubtedly “here to stay”, the big firms will be looking to see how they can recoup at least some of the lost earnings.

“In five years’ time I predict that major digital advertising platforms (like Facebook and YouTube) will have made a pact with consumers in some way, like offering a first-class service which requires a login in return for the right to serve some ads,” Hartley told PerformanceIN.  

“Ultimately consumers won’t be willing to make that pact with sites that don’t offer a relevant, personalised and quality proposition, so digital advertising platforms need to rise to the challenge. As is so often the case, it’s going to be survival of the fittest.”

Access denied

One of the techniques used by some publishers to thwart the use of ad blockers has been to gate certain forms of content if a tool has been detected. 

This looks to be having some effect among the younger generation, with 73% of 18-24 year olds admitting they would switch off their ad blocker if prompted. However, with this carrying a 54% success rate for the group as a whole, protecting content doesn’t look to be the one-size-fits-all solution to the issue.

In light of the results, IAB UK CEO Guy Phillipson attempted to sum up the situation at hand, whilst maintaining the group’s stance on the matter.

“The IAB believes that an ad funded internet is essential for providing revenue to publishers so they can continue to make their content, services and applications widely available at little, or no cost,” he commented. 

“We believe ad blocking undermines this approach and could mean consumers have to pay for content they currently get for free.”

The IAB’s campaign for an ad-funded web is spearheaded by its LEAN ads initiative: a code which urges advertisers to deliver light, encrypted, ad-choice supported, non-invasive inventory to their users.

Phillipson has previously describes the message conveyed by these principles as “absolutely vital” to addressing the main cause of ad blocking.