15 per cent of UK users block online ads

Free content and services are being put at risk as almost one in seven (15 per cent) British adults online are currently using ad blocking software – mainly because they find online ads interruptive or annoying.

This is according to the Internet Advertising Bureau UK Ad Blocking report, conducted by YouGov, who conducted a survey of 2,057 GB online adults in June 2015. Over one in five (22 per cent) admitted having downloaded the software at some point.

Key findings of the report:

  • Ad blocking is more prevalent among men and 18-34 year olds
    • Only half of ad blockers do so primarily to block all ads
    • Main motivation is to block ‘interruptive’ or ‘annoying’ ads
    • Nearly half of adults online are unaware that ads fund content at little or no cost

Men (22 per cent) are currently more than twice as likely to block ads as women (9 per cent). It’s most prevalent among 18-24 (34 per cent) and 25-34 year olds (19 per cent). Regionally, people in the North and Scotland (both 19 per cent) are the most likely to be doing so.

Only just over half (52 per cent) of those who’ve used the software said their main motivation was to block all ads; 12 per cent said it was to block certain types of ads, 11 per cent say only to block ads from certain websites.

Ads are most likely to be blocked because they interrupt what people are doing (cited by 73 per cent) or the design is annoying (55 per cent) – e.g. bright colours, pop-ups etc. Over half (54 per cent) do so because ads slow down their web browsing experience. Nearly half (46 per cent) say it’s because the ads aren’t relevant.

Less than half (44 per cent) of British adults online who responded said that they were aware that most websites are free – such as social networks, email, news, music streaming services – because they’re funded by advertising. Thus, when an individual blocks ads, the site doesn’t receive ad revenue for that user.

Men (52 per cent) are much more likely to be aware of this than women (36 per cent). Awareness also decreases with age – from 59 per cent of 18-24s to 36 per cent of people 55+.

However, only 10 per cent are less likely to block ads after being made aware that ads fund free content.

Two-thirds (66 per cent) of all respondents would still prefer to access free content and have no ads. Only one in five (21 per cent) prefers free content in return for having ads. Just 3 per cent would prefer to pay for content in return for not having ads.

“When it comes to a free and an ad-free internet, a lot of consumers want to have their cake and eat it,” said IAB’s CEO, Guy Phillipson. “However, those unaware that most online services are free – or cost very little – because sites make money from showing visitors ads, could be in for a shock if websites start charging for access because ad blocking reduces their revenue from advertising. The bottom line is that if the web didn’t have ads, most sites could only exist by charging subscriptions.”

Among those currently using ad blocking software, 80 per cent are doing so on laptops, 46 per cent on desktop PCs. Less than one in five (19 per cent) is blocking ads on tablets or mobiles.