LONDON: Ad blocking appears to be moving into the mainstream in the UK, according to a new report which estimates that 27% of internet users, or 14.7m people, will install ad avoidance software by the end of next year.
According to eMarketer's first-ever study of the ad blocking phenomenon in the UK, just 10% of internet users installed ad blocking software in 2014, which means the proportion of people using it will nearly triple by 2017.
Currently, about a fifth (20.5%) of British internet users have ad blocking software and this equates to 10.9m people.
The great majority (90.2%) do so on their desktop PCs and laptops, compared with 28.2% on their smartphones, but the report showed a gradual shift is underway as more mobile users adopt ad blockers.
By the end of next year, about a quarter (24%) of those who use a desktop PC or laptop are expected to install ad blocking software, with 8.8% doing the same on their smartphones. Some users, of course, install the software across devices.
"There's no doubting that ad blocking is now a very real issue for advertisers. Next year, over a quarter of the people they're trying to reach will be wilfully making themselves unreachable," said Bill Fisher, a senior analyst at eMarketer.
"The good news is that numbers like this have forced those within the industry to think long and hard about what it is that they need to do better in order that this practice doesn't become an epidemic."
There was further discouraging news for the industry with the release of findings from Oriel, an ad-tech company, which suggested ad blockers are not just blocking ads but also severely disrupting the internet.
Oriel conducted a test in which it checked a range of popular websites of major companies, such as British Airways, Ryanair, Vodafone, P&G and Land Rover.
According to the research, ad blocking software prevented users from checking in online on the British Airways and Ryanair websites, because the software also blocked the terms and conditions box.
The study also found that videos were blocked on the Land Rover website while ad blockers prevented internet users from tracking an order delivery on the Vodafone site.
Aidan Joyce, CEO of Oriel, said: "Ad-blocking is blocking more than just adverts – it's blocking everything from airline check-ins, order tracking, news content, social sharing and even entire blogs without us knowing – we're not just talking about pop-up ads, it's resulting in missing sections and errors on websites."
Data sourced from eMarketer, Oriel; additional content by Warc staff