Ad blocking in UK: here to stay or gone tomorrow?

Becky Doles

When asked if they would pay to block ads, nearly 80 percent of U.K. consumers said they would pay nothing.

With Europeans often regarded as being more sensitive to information privacy, are United Kingdom consumers any more likely than their American counterparts to install ad blocker software on their mobile phones? According to TUNE research, the answer is yes, but just by a tad.

U.K. smartphone users are about as likely — or unlikely — to use ad blockers to shut down mobile adverts as Westerners, according to a TUNE survey that included 1,000 U.K. consumers. While 23.9 percent of Americans report using ad blockers on their smartphones, only 26.8 percent of those surveyed in the U.K. said they had used ad blockers. That leaves about 73 percent of U.K. respondents reporting they haven’t installed an ad-blocker or weren’t sure if they had.

A Shifting Trend?

The trend may be shifting in the direction of greater use by U.K. smartphone owners.

Installation of ad-blockers is growing in popularity. Twelve percent of respondents had installed an ad blocker more than a year ago, and 3 percent in the last six-to-nine months. But then, in just the first quarter of 2016, there was a three-fold spike in the number of people installing an ad blocker app or browser. The installs are coming disproportionately from males, with 62 percent of those favoring ad-blockers being men using an Android device.

Males were more like to have installed the mobile app/software generally on their smartphone, which interestingly correlated with our U.S. survey results too.

An Age Issue?

Banks, insurance companies and other brands targeting seniors with their online ads might want to rethink their strategies. The 65+ age group reigned victorious for having installed more ad blockers than any other age group we surveyed, with a third reporting installing ad blockers.  What’s interesting is that out of those who said yes, about 20 percent had installed them a over a year ago. With the topic trending in late 2015, installs were on the rise again, with more people installed an ad blocker within the first quarter of 2016 than they were the prior 6 months.

People age 25-54 (split into two categories, 25-34 and 45-54) reported installing ad-blockers equally, at 30 percent saying they had. Interestly, 54 percent of men across both age groups said they hadn’t installed, with only 27 percent saying yes they had (others not being sure).

Younger demographic-audiences appear to be more tolerant of ads, if ad-blockers are any indication. Only 10 percent of 18-24 year olds and 25-34 year olds in the U.K. said they had installed an ad blocker. U.K. teens aged 13-17 were least likely to install an ad blocker at only 4 percent.

What Now?

While ad-blocking is clearly on the rise, and predicted to continue to increase in popularity, U.K. advertisers should not panic just yet.

Why? When asked if they would pay to block ads, nearly 80 percent of U.K. consumers said they would pay nothing. Almost 7 percent said they would pay less than $1/year, and less than 5 percent said they’d pay $1/day. This is obviously not enough for publishers to make a living from their site, nor maintain their sites with fresh, new content and employees wages.

If publishers did look to charge for their content, then according to our research, they should zero in on 35-44 year olds, as they said (28.26%) they would spend $1/day on blocking mobile ads during their nearly three hours a day on mobile with over 80 percent of that being in apps. I don’t think publishers need worry about that, as I think once the consumers understood more about the business models behind most of these ad-blocking companies, then they would less inclined to install them.

“The business model of ad-blocking is a pretty unsavory one,” Simon Fox, CEO of Trinity Mirror (a subsidiary of Daily Mirror) told The Guardian. “They offer software for free (to consumers) and then come to us and say ‘your site’s OK, so if you pay us we will ensure ads on your sites get through.’ There is something extremely unhealthy about this business model.”



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Becky Doles

Becky is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at TUNE. Before TUNE, she handled content strategy and marketing communications at several tech startups in the Bay Area. Becky received her bachelor's degree in English from Wake Forest University. After a decade in San Francisco and Seattle, she has returned home to Charleston, SC, where you can find her strolling through Hampton Park with her pup and enjoying the simple things between adventures with friends and family.

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