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Rise in ad blocking stalls

News, 18 August 2016

LONDON: The use of ad blockers in the UK appears to have levelled off in the second quarter of 2016, following a steady rise in the latter half of 2015 and the early part of 2016.

The latest figures from Internet Advertising Bureau UK (IAB), based on a YouGov survey of 2,011 UK online adults, show that 21.2% were using ad blockers in July 2016.

A year earlier the figure was 15.1% but rose to 17.8% in October 2015 and then 21.7% in February this year.

"It's encouraging to see ad blocking plateauing but it certainly isn't a sign the industry needs to take its foot off the pedal in terms of moving to a less invasive, lighter and more user-friendly ad experience," said Guy Phillipson, outgoing CEO of IAB UK.

A slight increase in usage among women has been more than offset by a decline among men; 18-24s remain the most likely demographic to use an ad blocker (38%).

A significant proportion of those who have downloaded an ad blocker no longer use it (22%), while the research also revealed that over two-thirds (68%) of people who have ever used an ad blocker have received a notice asking them to turn it off.

More than half (55%) of ad blockers said they would switch it off if it was the only way to access content, rising to 72% among 18-24 year olds.

A similar proportion of all online adults (67%) said they were aware that online advertising funds free content and services on many websites, but fewer (55%) knew that blocking ads could mean websites being unable to offer such free content.

"The ‘value exchange' message for consumers may be gaining stronger traction," Phillipson observed. "Nearly 1 in 5 (18%) people say they're less likely to block ads in the future, knowing that the alternative could mean websites start charging."

The IAB further noted that genuine ad blocking levels might be lower than reported, as the research had exposed some confusion among consumers as to what is and isn't an ad blocker.

More than one in five who claimed to use an ad blocker, incorrectly cited anti-virus software or ad blockers that don't exist.

Data sourced from IAB; additional content by Warc staff