The recent announcement around Google phasing out third-party cookies has brought the spotlight back on the consumer – not only the need to listen to consumers but also to find a new way to understand them that does not forfeit their privacy.

Online advertising is growing exponentially, with the latest Advertising Association/WARC Expenditure report estimating a 5.2 per cent increase which translates into £26.1 billion. In the UK alone, people spend an average of 3 hours and 15 minutes online each day. It is therefore not surprising when data suggests that worldwide internet ad spending will increase 11.1 per cent in 2020 to $326 billion, capturing 52 per cent of ad spending.

However, the growth of online advertising has been accompanied by the increase in the use of ad-blocking software. New report suggest that 763 million global devices were blocking ads at the end of 2019. In order for ads to be seen these days, they need to be relevant and delivered in a manner that does not disrupt the user experiences.

While publishers have a good understanding of their ad-blocking readers, it is important for the advertiser community (as well as the whole buy side) to develop the same level of understanding about their audiences. So here are some key points about this ad-blocking audience:

Ad-blocking users look beyond intrusion:

According to a survey by eyeo there are a number of misconceptions amongst advertisers when it comes to ad-blocking. First and foremost, ad-blocking users do not hate ads. Users of ad-blocking software have a very clear idea about the type of ads they consider to be acceptable. In fact, 80 per cent of ad-blocking users in Britain understand adverts are important for maintaining a free internet ecosystem but they do not want to compromise with disruptive or intrusive advertising formats.

Ad-blocking users are educated, tech- savvy and young:

Most of the hundreds of millions of ad-blocking users are young, educated, tech-savvy and earning more than an average salary. They are 80 per cent more likely to make purchases online, making them an important audience for advertisers. This kind of shatters the myth pushed around in the early days of ad blocking, that ad blockers were cheapskates who were outside the lines of your normal web user. So clearly every advertisers should want to reach this segment – but most (of you) probably thought that was impossible right? I mean, how do you “reach” someone who’s blocking ads … even if (see point one above) they don’t “hate ads”?

“Ad-filtering” is taking off:

Ad-blocking has changed. We have entered the age of ad-filtering. In its early stages, ad-blocking was ruling out all forms of advertising. As discussed earlier, online users are happy to receive ads as long as they are not intrusive and add to their browsing experience. But are they actually doing so?

The answer, resoundingly, is yes. In the newest report on worldwide ad blocking, Blockthrough found that of the top 100 US ComScore publishers, 56 per cent employ at least one ad-block monetization strategy. This means that publishers are able to mitigate “total ad blocking” by reaching out to users who instead choose to simply “filter” ads, allowing more friendly formats through.

Are advertisers aware of what these formats are? Are agencies? If not, these mitigation strategies to reach these particular users will increase reach by the hundreds of millions.

Moving beyond intrusive ads

Intrusive ads, such as pop-up ads or auto-playing videos, disrupt some users’ online experience. This is confirmed by eyeo’s research which found 71 per cent of British ad-blocking users download an ad-blocker to prevent invasive forms of advertising disrupting their online experience.

A number of publishers already offer inventory that lets less intrusive formats come through. This is one of the mitigation methods referred to above; others include soft messaging to ad blockers to turn off their ad blocker or, in rare cases, forceful ad reinsertion. However, there is plenty of scope for a larger number of ads (and the brands advertising through them) to adhere to the acceptable standards.

In this way, advertisers and agencies would have the opportunity to reach a community of hundreds of millions of ad-filtering users that were previously overlooked. While not the only solution, the open ecosystem that has developed around Acceptable Ads is one key answers to this problem and can provide significant value to all the stakeholders involved — the publishers, brands, agencies, ad-tech vendors and end-users. The ecosystem provides multiple ad-tech solutions for brands, agencies, Demand-Side Platforms (DSPs), etc.

Bringing ad-blocking users to the forefront

2020 will be the Year of the Consumer. Recent announcements by Google, Safari and Firefox are signalling a change in the current web ecosystem with consumers reclaiming and gradually re-gaining power.

In this context, the adtech and publishing communities have an important role to play. Evidence already suggests that ad-blocking users understand the role advertising plays in keeping the internet free and only want to see consent-based ads, which is exactly what ad-blockers are doing. The sell side has found a range of solutions to reach the ad-filtering (originally blocking) audience. It is now time for advertisers to understand the opportunity ahead and benefit from it.


Written by Ben Williams, Director of Advocacy at eyeo.

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