Media buyers and publishers cannot afford to get complacent over dwindling rates of ad blocking, according to Aly Nurmohamed, VP, Global Publisher Strategy at Criteo.

IAB yesterday (August 19) revealed a drop in the proportion of UK web users with ad blockers installed on their various devices. 

While a dip from 21.7% in February to 21.2% in July may not represent the biggest of developments on the face of things, a graph from the Bureau shows just how quickly ad blocking has grown in a short space of time. Any small drop in adoption, therefore, is significant. 

Nevertheless, even news of ad blocking – which siphons cash from publishers by preventing certain types of inventory from being shown – no longer being a “growing” issue should not result in celebration, according to Nurmohamed, due to the work that must go into tackling the issue’s root cause.

“While yesterday’s IAB survey findings actually represent a slight decrease in ad blocking from February, this is not a cause for industry-wide celebration yet.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done to ensure that ads are engaging with consumers and not getting in the way of their online experience.”

A need for relevance 

The ad-blocker blame game has been played out over the last year as tools like AdBlock Plus continue to gain almost bi-weekly press coverage, as well as big-name opposition from the companies they affect. 

Fever pitch erupted midway through 2015 as ad-blocker usage grew, culminating in special features from the likes of BBC, while PerformanceIN’s special ad-blocker week gathered the verdict of the IAB and Pubmatic among others. 

Little has come in the way of a one-size-fits-all solution to clamping down on the blocking of ads, many of which pay for the free content that every user gets. 

In terms of positive steps, Nurmohamed touts personalisation and the use of data as a way of ensuring ads are more relevant to the user, also recommending a way of gauging reaction on what’s being served.   
“Ad blocking has kick started an exciting era where brands have the chance to engage web and mobile users on a highly personalised level, with targeted, relevant content. But it’s a dialogue and there must be an opportunity for users to feedback or even opt out.”

Recent happenings

Ad blockers are a shining example of a ‘disrupter’, even causing plenty of attention and concern from some of the forefathers of that billing. Last week, Facebook set up a special feature on its desktop site that meant even people running an ad-blocking plugin would see its inventory. 

AdBlock Plus retaliated in an expected fashion; updating its scripts to once again re-block Facebook’s ads. A summary from the Register predicts: “By the time of publication it is entirely possible that the two sides could have un-blocked and re-blocked one another all over again.”

Such moves speak volumes about the lengths that some companies have gone to prevent ad-blockers from impacting their revenue, off the back of advertisers not paying for ads that aren’t delivered. 

Axel Springer – owner of titles such as Bild and Business Insider – is another organisation implicated in the war against tools of this nature; bringing legal action against AdBlock Plus on a number of occasions without success. 

As for the users, most of their opinions have been aired via studies from groups like the IAB and YouGov, in which a lack of relevance, the disruptive nature of certain ads and their harm on the general experience have been earmarked as drivers for the trend.