“I would point to YouTube as the single greatest motivator to install ad blocking,” said Blanchfield. While platforms like YouTube and Facebook have acclimated users to pre-roll video – which used to be forbidden territory for marketers – millions of others have forsaken online advertising altogether.
There are other powerhouse platforms content to give ad blocking a leg up. Apple recently announced that it would soon allow ad blocking on its iOS and devices. Ben Williams, a manager at Eyeo GmbH, a German tech company which provides the world’s most widely used ad-block software, called Apple’s decision “a validation.”
While Apple has many digital publishers concerned – with more than half the world’s mobile browsing on Safari, it could significantly elevate mobile ad blocking – Google remains the decisive voice in the matter.
At the company’s annual stockholders meeting in June, CEO Larry Page indicated that he considers ad blocking a legitimate consumer choice, reaffirming to publishers that the onus for addressing the problem lies with them and their advertisers, not the search giant.
Ad blocking’s meteoric rise since 2013, following almost a decade of plodding growth, can be tied to the adoption of Chrome. Chrome became the most widely used browser in 2013, and Google controls more of the European market than it does in the US.
Blanchfield also emphasized that the scale of the issue is often overlooked because users who download the software become “invisible.” It isn’t just that ads aren’t served: Affected users are also disconnected from the whole world of surveys, A/B testing and pixel tracking that undergirds online advertising’s effectiveness.
“How do you get users back when the means of interaction, actual communication between browsers, is gone?” asked Blanchfield.
He answered his own question: “An entire audience of hundreds of millions of young men is, for publishers, simply lost.”