March 07, 2017

Digital Advertising Chart: Why consumers block online ads


More than 600 million devices use ad blocking software to avoid digital advertising, according to PageFair.

What irritates customers the most about online advertising? What could be so frustrating that it motivates them to download a specific software to block the ads? Read on to see the latest data from consumers in this MarketingSherpa Chart article.

by Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute

In October 2016, MarketingSherpa asked 2,400 U.S. consumers…

Why do you block online ads? Select all that apply.

To see 27 more charts from the study, download the free report.

Top reason customers block online ads is because the ads disrupt their experience

“I dislike large ads that pop up over entire webpage” was the top reason customers chose to block online ads, selected by 30% of respondents.

In other words, the main reason that customers block online ads is that they are getting in the way of the customer’s chosen experience. Two other popular responses that indicate this customer frustration were the third-most-chosen response, “Rollover ads are intrusive” (23%), and the fourth-most-frequent response, “Audio AutoPlay of online ads is intrusive” (19%).

This is actually good news. It means that most customers aren’t alienated by all digital advertising. They simply (and sensibly) do not want anything to interrupt their desired experience. As some respondents put it in their own words:

  • “Pop ups are intrusive, they interrupt your page”
  • “Make sure the marketing doesn't prevent me [from finishing] my current task at hand. Example: pop ups blocking my content.”
  • “If they slow the loading or block what I am looking at I hate them. I also hate if they are somewhere I have to scroll up or down to X out. It looks cheap and pushy.”

Some online ads remind me of an invasive species. They are non-native, spread prolifically (across a webpage), and they cause harm (to the customer’s experience). But this data indicates that if advertisers and publishers focus on complementary digital advertising — for example, ads that frame an article — instead of invasive advertising, customers are less likely to block digital ads.

Of course, the reason publishers and advertisers use these invasive ad technique is because they catch the attention of customers and get a click. In other words, they generate more money in the short term than less obtrusive ads.

However, what works in the short term is destroying the long term. Publishers and advertisers should take a customer-first marketing approach and utilize less disruptive advertising. Much like an invasive species damages the ecosystem and makes it unlivable for other species, these ads are poisoning consumers’ attitudes towards digital advertising, causing them to install digital ad blockers and making the entire digital advertising ecosystem untenable.

Website functionality also a factor in ad blocking

The second most frequent response was that “ads make the webpages load too slow,” chosen by 26% of consumers.

Publishers and advertisers must also understand how the unintended content customers receive (ads) affects the content they actually intended to receive (for example, an article).

Smaller, simpler, less media rich and less distracting ads can help in this instance as well.

According to an article in The New York Times about the PageFair data I mentioned in the opening summary of this article, 380 million smartphones and tablets around the globe use ad-blocking software (90 percent of which are in Asia Pacific).

If you have an audience or prospective customer base that is prone to using mobile devices (especially in Asia), this load time issue could be a big factor for your company. Plus, not only does the advertising file size affect load time, it affects their mobile data plan cost, as one respondent pointed out, “Some ads are too bandwith heavy. It isn't good when you have a bandwith cap. Also it's easier to get viruses.”

In the United States and Europe, most of the ad blocking happened on traditional computers (236 million of them). Load time in general shouldn’t be as much of an issue on desktop, however, if you your customer base largely lives in rural areas, you might want to pay special attention to this factor. As one respondent pointed out, digital advertising “uses up our limited allowances (we have satellite internet).”

Customers with limited mobile or desktop bandwidth may essentially be paying to download your ads. So, the bigger those ads are, the more you will alienate these potential customers.

Related resources

Learn a methodology to optimize your online ads, and all of your marketing messages, in the University of Florida/MECLABS Institute Communicating Value and Web Conversion graduate certificate program

Online Advertising: The 3 obstacles you must overcome to create an effective banner ad

Use of Ad-Blocking Software Rises by 30% Worldwide (by Mark Scott in The New York Times)

How to Improve Conversion of Your Online Ads

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