Pagefair have released annual reports on the rise of ad-blocking since 2013, charting Ad-block’s evolution from tinfoil-hat-wearer’s companion into the mainstream “threat” to publisher revenue models that we all know and love.

Yesterday, Pagefair released the 2016 version of their annual report. The overall trend was much the same as previous reports – 90% growth in the use of ad-blockers by consumers across the globe, from 237 million users in March 2015 to 408 million in March 2016. So far, so unsurprising.

However, this year’s report is particularly interesting for a couple of reasons:


After several years of being mostly limited to desktop, Ad-block software has made the leap into mobile, where its adoption has been enthusiastic.

It’s hardly surprising – if users are frustrated enough with intrusive banner ads to block them on desktop, similar-sized banners on smaller screens with limited data speeds were never going to be the exception that proves the rule.

What is worth commenting on is the sheer speed with which mobile ad-blockers have entered the market. In 2015’s report, mobile ad-blocking was a possibility on the horizon, but didn’t actually exist in large numbers. Today, there are twice as many mobile ad-blockers in use as their desktop counterparts, and their popularity has grown to the point where mobile network Three is trialing a technology to block ads at network level.


In spite of the rapid adoption by consumers, Pagefair’s commentary on the issue to date has been defined by a slightly petulant tone that made it very clear that Ad-block was THE ENEMY.

Early commentaries referenced publishers “going out of business” and stated outright that ad-blocking was “not good for the future of the web”. Estimates for the amount of “lost revenue” as a result of ad-block usage was highlighted in each report.

Not so in 2016.

The entire tone of the report is more accepting of the fact that Ad-blocking is a proportionate response by consumers to poor advertising practice.

Rather than prophesising doom, the foreword makes the (new for Pagefair) admission that “people are installing Ad-block for different reasons, many of which are indisputably valid”, and puts the responsibility for finding a solution on marketers and publishers. ‘Bout time – I for one have been singing this same tune for some time, notably here in my Marketing New Year’s Resolution post, at the start of this year.


For me, this means that ad-blocking has successfully driven its point home, the point being that consumers are in control, not advertisers, and that they do not consider interruptive display advertising to be a good use of their time.

Crucially, it also means that the tone of the discussion has shifted; advertisers and publishers alike have accepted that consumers have a point about the state of advertising, and a reason for choosing to block it.
This is a huge step forward from the tone of some responses to date, which have all-but implied that consumers are content thieves, deliberately putting hard-working publishers out of business by stealing their work.

What are the implications for marketing?

We’ve talked a lot over the past six months about what ad-blocking means for brands, and the latest Pagefair report vindicates this.

In case you’ve not seen our reports to date (check out our Insights section if you’d like to catch up), here are the top 5 points to consider in your marketing:

Customers are in charge: Marketing is no longer about broadcasting to a receptive audience. Consumers are busy, and their expectations are high. They call the shots and you are at their service.
• Attention is limited: Attention is a valuable commodity, as marketers place constant demands on consumers to watch this, click that, like this, read that. Consumers are overwhelmed.
Consumers demand Return on Attention: Just as brands expect return on their marketing investment, your customers expect something in return for the time and attention they invest in your brand.
Users like brands that solve their needs: Now that “surfing the web” has given way to an always-on approach to digital connectivity, users are not passive browsers. They have a need to solve and they don’t have time for distractions (unless their need is to be distracted, of course).
Useful content delivers ROA for users and ROI for brands: to survive in a post-ad-block world, brands must deliver content that’s relevant, useful and to the point.

Modern marketing is about earning attention, not demanding it, and the best way to do this is by understanding, anticipating and addressing users’ needs, not broadcasting self-centred banalities. Surprisingly enough, bloated banner ads tend not to be the best way to achieve this.

We’re really pleased to see more advertisers, as well as Pagefair, coming to this realisation too.

Check out our guide to Return on Attention right here:

Image shows link to Return on Attention insight by Silverbean to support article on ad-block