Ad blocking usage 'not growing', says report

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AdBlock screengrabImage source, AdBlock
Image caption,
AdBlock claims its program can block all ads, including those on YouTube and Facebook

Less than a quarter of UK online adults use ad blocking software, according to a report from the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB).

The figures have remained at around 22% for the last year, it suggested.

The IAB puts this down to publishers increasingly denying access to users who have ad blockers turned on.

Charlotte Palfrey, from analysts Ovum, said that 22% was not "an insignificant amount" and called on advertisers to up their game.

Ad blocking programs are designed to protect consumers from intrusive web ads that slow down browsers and vacuum up personal data.

Some believed that there would be a big rise in the number of people using ad blockers, after a series of firms, including Apple and Samsung, allowed the apps on their mobile browsers. Mobile service provider Three trialled a block on advertising for a day during the summer.

Web businesses said such software could seriously damage the digital economy. The IAB has said that ad-funded model of free web content was "under threat".

Image source, AdFender
Image caption,
Ad blockers like AdFender, strip out ads from web content, but that reduces publisher income

"The continued rise in ad blocking that some predicted simply hasn't materialised," said the IAB UK's chief executive Jon Mew.

"A key reason is publishers denying access to content to ad blockers which, in effect, has created that 'lightbulb' moment for people who realise that they cannot access free content without seeing the advertising that funds it. The industry has worked hard on promoting this "value exchange" and it's paying off."

Around 200 million people globally are estimated to use ad blocking apps such as Adblock Plus, AdFender and Popup Blocker Po.

Ms Palfrey said that publishers had to respond with more engaging ads.

"You quite often get chased around the internet by a pair of shoes that you have already bought and that's the type of thing that really annoys people.

"When you read a magazine, adverts are part of the experience but no-one has ever got excited about an internet advertising campaign."

According to the report, conducted by YouGov which interviewed 2,018 adults, one in five of those who have downloaded ad blockers do not currently use them.

Piers North, strategy director at Trinity Mirror, acknowledged that publishers must "continue our attempts to balance the often competing requirements of what brands and agencies value, with the experience that we would want to deliver for our users in order to invest in professional content".

"This is especially important in an era where advertisers are increasingly demanding quality inventory and society is more and more concerned with the provenance of content and news."