The creation of ad blockers was a significant turning point for the online experience. Suddenly, users could choose what kind of content they wanted to see and maintain greater control of their browsing experience. Now, up to 27% of all users have ad blockers active while browsing the internet (Statistica).
But this has also meant that many platforms had to work around these blockers. To adjust, some now insist that visitors disable their ad blockers before accessing their content. Others gently nudge users to do so but grant access anyway.
Then there are the ingenious anti-adblock solutions that render ads on a platform even if the user has an ad blocker enabled.
But how did we get here? Why have ad blockers become so critical to users’ browsing experience and what do they mean for marketers, publishing platforms, and users in the long run?
Ad blockers might be a necessary evil
To many users, ad blockers are a necessity that helps protect their privacy, smoothen their browsing experience, and even save bandwidth. Many marketers see them as an evil that significantly impacts the way they sell online. But more on that later.
Some popular ad block extensions offer additional perks, like a VPN for even more browsing privacy. Brave browser takes things one step further by incorporating everything from a VPN to a private Tor browser mode where users can access sites on the onion network.
Security is another big selling point for ad blockers. One study by PCMAG found that online advertising increases users’ exposure to computer viruses, much more than many porn websites. Which is crazy when you think about the fact that advertisers are simply trying to improve their targeting and reach their customers.
So on the one hand, we have users installing ad blockers to improve their user experience and, for lack of a better term, stay safe online. On the other hand are marketers looking for the best way to target their users.
The larger impact of adblockers?
On publishing platforms
On the publishing side, users with ad block extensions will never see or interact with displayed ads. That ultimately means less revenue for the platform, whether the ads are PPC or regular display ads.
With PPC ads, the fewer people see the ads, the fewer people will click, and that means the platform makes very little revenue.
One way around this, that platforms have found, is to make users pay for access to content. That way, revenue is made with or without ad blockers. A second option, which we mentioned earlier, is to kindly ask users to disable their ad blockers as they access the platform. The latter has proven to be an effective strategy because according to Blockadblock up to 73% of users will turn off their ad block when asked.
There are several schools of thought on how ad blockers affect advertisers. One is that ad blockers tend to delay campaign success, which can be costly in a high-competition industry.
If users don’t see your ads, they can’t click on them, which means you won’t pay for impressions or clicks. But on the other hand, it will take your campaign a long time to fulfill since you’ll have significantly less traffic coming in.
Another school of thought is that ad blockers are a marketer’s best friend because those users don’t plan on buying anyway. The idea being, users who activate ad blockers, aren’t looking to engage with anything that’s outside of their current interest area. As a result, they will never interact with your ads but you’ll still pay for the impressions.
Yet another perspective has it that ad blockers cause CPCs to rise because all marketers are now competing for a smaller number of users and placements.
For many users, ad blockers offer nothing but a positive experience. They are designed to block out intrusive advertisements, annoying pop ups and let the user focus on the content they are seeking out. Quality ad blockers can also speed up page load times.
However, one potential downside is that ad blockers can actually disrupt the browsing experience by hampering page scripts and corrupting important components.
Ad blockers work by blocking communication with ad servers and then hiding the web page elements designed to show the content. Sometimes, ad blockers will also block third party scripts – those that originate from somewhere outside the visited platform – that are actually important for the page’s performance.
So if a user visits a blog on air conditioners, ad blockers will block scripts that originated from other websites. But these third party scripts aren’t always ads and, as a result, some core elements of the web page may be mistaken for ads, which is bad for the user if it’s critical to what they are looking for.
Adblock bypassing strategies
Anti-adblock strategies have been in circulation for a while, and they enable platforms to bypass blockers and show ads anyway. We’ve already discussed some of these, like asking users to turn off their ad-blockers before gaining access.
But some other anti-adblock strategies are even more aggressive and aim to show ads without asking users for permission. Let’s review two of the most popular.
1. Anti-adblock scripts
Most ad content is third-party, but anti-adblock scripts make them look like they are originating from the website’s subdomain. As a result, ad blockers ignore them and users experience the ads. Some of the most popular anti-adblock scripts are Finteza and Yavli.
These anti adblock scripts are usually short-lived because ad blockers are constantly trying to identify and shut them down. It’s become something of a race where anti-adblock scripts keep deploying new obfuscation strategies while ad blockers try to decode and block them.
2. Acceptable anti-ad block scripts
There are also less aggressive anti-adblock scripts that fall under acceptable ads standards. Whenever a user’s ad block is detected, these anti-adblock scripts will modify the ad experience instead of trying to trick the tool.
The anti-ad block scripts will block moving image and video ads and only let through image and text ads. In this way, marketers can still reach their target audience by simply creating ads that are compatible with the anti-ad block script’s operations.
Ad Blockers that take things a little too far
Traditionally, ad blockers simply keep ads away from the user’s browsing experience. But some take things to another level, sometimes to the benefit of the user, and other times to the detriment of every party involved.
The Ad nauseam browser extension
The ad nauseam browser is unlike most other browser extensions in its category because it doesn’t just block ads; it intentionally clicks them to confuse analytics and make users impossible to track.
According to its creators, it’s also a way to amplify users’ discontent with advertising networks that ignore privacy and data security. This singular free abblocker browser extension has cost advertisers billions of dollars. It’s since been removed from the Chrome web store but can still be downloaded on the internet.
Nano ad blocker
When users install ad blockers, nobody expects to get malware as part of the package. Yet, that’s what users who installed nano ad blocker experienced back in 2020.
Shortly after the ad blocker was sold to a new developer, malicious code was added to its updates and rolled out to over 300,000 users. Infected browsers started liking Instagram posts en masse, with zero input from the users. Some users also reported that the browsers accessed their IG accounts, regardless of whether or not they were opened.
The extension has since been taken off the chrome web store but is still available for Microsoft Edge and Firefox because, according to the original creator, they were not affected by the malware.
Other threats for digital marketers
Although ad blockers are a headache for marketers, they’re not the biggest problem for the industry. Advertising click fraud can affect your campaigns in many of the same ways. By racking up marketing spend (like the ad nauseam extension), skewing data, and basically, making a mess of your ad campaigns, click fraud is by far the biggest challenge.
The solution is, of course, to keep these bots off your ads and ensure that only real users interact, click and convert; ClickCease’s ad fraud protection service does exactly that.
By keeping everything from bots to competitors away from your ads, you can preserve your budget and spend money on acquiring high-quality leads.
Try ClickCease for free for 7 days today.