DIMENSION 2018: Ad Blockers – who, what, why?

Consumers have always had the ability to avoid ads. They can look away, engage with another media form, fast forward, turn the page, leave the room, talk to someone or simply ignore the images agencies have gone to so much trouble to put in front of them. For digital advertising, ad blockers and premium content subscriptions have now provided users with powerful tools for avoiding ads. Meanwhile, effectiveness and attribution research has often found that repeated ad exposures can eventually lead to purchases, encouraging marketers and brands to deluge consumers in ads – and further encourage them to opt out. How do we strike the optimum balance?

Kantar Media recently launched its annual DIMENSION report which explores issues like ad blocking and looks at what steps the industry can take to resolve the problem. The findings of the report are results of consumer surveys and interviews with industry leaders across five of the largest media markets in the world. Our findings on the current state of ad blocking follow below.

Who are the ad blockers?

In the US, around 33% of all ad dollars are allocated to online media. That’s a large chunk of money potentially being wasted if your audience is using ad blocking technology.

Just over 1 in 5 connected adults claim to use an ad blocker all of the time, with a further 33% claiming they ‘sometimes’ block. Blocking is by no means a habit reserved for the young. This year our DIMENSION report found that the proportion of 45 – 64 year olds blocking was at almost the same level as the 18 – 34’s.

Ad Blocking

What are their online habits?

According to our TGI survey, US consumers using ad blockers on smartphones or tablets are 27% more likely to be heavy internet users, spending 20+ hours a week online. Light internet users on the other hand, those spending only up to nine hours a week online, are 31% less likely than average to use an ad blocker.

Indeed, ad blockers are made up of consumers spending a large portion of their time online. They are 178% more likely to download and 124% more likely to stream content from the internet, whether it be music, podcasts, movies, TV shows or games. They are also 142% more likely to be social online, using the internet for emailing, chatting, and social and professional networking.

Consumers can find ads intrusive and interruptive during these activities, so it’s no wonder this group is the most likely to be blocking advertising.

Even though heavy internet users are blocking ads with more frequency, they are actually 137% more likely to signal advertising as an important determinant of their purchasing behavior, and are also 99% more likely to use the internet for shopping. Accordingly, it’s critical for marketers to understand what is driving this audience, which offers significant market potential.

Why are they blocking ads?

According to DIMENSION’s survey findings, the core reasons for ad blocking include a lack of relevance, contextual inappropriateness and inaccurate chronology in the placement of ads. Those who always use a blocker are far more likely than all connected consumers to say they generally dislike advertising. Accordingly, marketers may be able to limit ad blocking by providing a better experience to users and showing them ads that offer real value.

Industry leaders agree that there is more to be done to improve the user experience when it comes to online advertising.

Laurent Bliault, Directeur Général Adjoint, TF1 Publicite, France states “If you put a 30-second pre-roll before two minutes of content, it is not the best. More than 85% of spots broadcast on our digital platforms are the same as those on the television. That’s an issue. I think it's insufficiently adapted.”

Kantar Media China CEO Coolio Yang says of his days at Ogilvy “…we used to make a fairly standard ad and wouldn't worry about whether anyone would find it relevant enough to watch. Now, our research looks into what kind of language is used, how sentences are structured, and what consumers are susceptible to. If we don’t understand the answers to these kind of questions, then our brand message will be in a form that is like trying to put a square peg into a round hole.”

According to Kantar Media North America CEO Manish Bhatia, there are steps we can take to minimize the blocking. When we have ads have that are less intrusive and less disruptive of the consumers’ core reason to be online, they are less likely to be blocked. Ads do need to be relevant to the consumer within reason, but our DIMENSION study proves that brands must be useful and engaging to persuade consumers to stop avoiding them – which can include offering entertainment value in addition to information about relevant products, or discounts.

And as noted by Jonathan Steuer, CRO at Omnicom Media Group US, there may be a core group of people who simply don’t want to view ads – and who marketers may be better off finding other ways to reach. As he observes, “Ad avoidance generally has always been a niche phenomenon…{but} the people who care, care a lot - and they’re really loud.” Creating a better experience may ultimately mean targeting a small group of truly ad-adverse consumers with other tactics like social or PR, while providing the rest with ads that have been tailored to their interest, needs and context.


DIMENSION explores the key communication planning, buying and measurement issues faced by the industry from the twin perspectives of the industry’s leaders, and the consumers they are trying to reach.

Learn more about DIMENSION here

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