IS THE UK THE MOST SOPHISTICATED AD BLOCKING COUNTRY IN EUROPE?

By Lloyd Clark, CAN Managing Director. Originally posted 15 May 2017

Possibly. But not in the way you might think.

In what some considered Apple’s way of poking Google, ad blocking went mainstream a year and a half ago when it was enabled in iOS 9. Apple’s public position – which, it must be said, was welcomed with open arms by swathes of people – was to improve the mobile web experience. Ads took too long to load. Ads were in the way. Ads damaged the user experience.

But reports of the demise of internet advertising are greatly exaggerated. Ad blocking in the UK plateaued last year at 22% according to the IAB. That’s one of the lowest rates in Europe – well below Germany and France, with reported rates of 39 and 34%, respectively.

What is happening? Probably a combination of things. First, digital consumers in Britain may just be savvier than their continental cousins. They’re certainly far more experienced. The UK is by far the largest digital advertising market in Europe, bigger than Germany and France combined.

This level of experience could mean that the British digital consumer understands the linkage between advertising and “publishing” in its broadest sense. Much of what we consume on the internet is free to the user, whether it is content or functionality, but is paid for by advertising. Take away the advertising, and you take away the free stuff. More ad blocking on the continent could well mean that market development is being stunted because content and app providers have no way of making a living. In the UK, it’s flourishing, possibly because the British consumer understands the inherent link between the advertising they see and the content and functionality they enjoy.

It could also be that publishers are getting more adept at placing ads which are, at worst, neutral to the user experience. Not even the most fervent supporter of the advertising status quo can deny that some ad placements are so annoying that users would prefer to go without the content or functionality they support. But not all ads are built or placed the same. Users have a clear preference for specific placements, and publishers are starting to take those preferences into consideration when designing their web and app pages.

Councils are clearly in tune with user requirements. The 50 local authorities currently using web advertising limit the number of ads that appear on each page and avoid the pop-ups and interstitials that gave rise to ad blockers.