Most consumers now proactively avoid advertising, whether by using ad blockers, paying for ad-free digital media experiences, or skipping ads. But even with incentives to view ads or share data, such as free content or rewards, many still aren’t comfortable with how companies use their data to target them with ads. As publishers shift to subscription models, consumers are opting to pay to receive digital content without ads or with reduced ad loads.  

Here is a look at some of the latest ad blocking trends and statistics.

Why do internet users block ads?

Internet users mainly use ad blockers to avoid intrusive, interruptive, or repetitive ads and get faster page speeds, as high ad loads can affect page loading times. But data privacy concerns also drive some people to use ad blockers to prevent tracking.

According to the Blockthrough survey, 81% of US ad blocking users said they use ad blockers to avoid interruptive or annoying ads. But substantial majorities also use them to protect themselves from malware (62%) and to protect their privacy (58%).

Some internet users are likewise probably adopting browsers for their privacy benefits. According to a March 2020 Consumer Reports survey, 24% of US adults said they used their preferred browser on desktop because it was better than other browsers for maintaining their online security, and 18% said the same of their browser preference on their smartphone.

Ad blocking usage stats

On average, about 40% of US internet users utilize an ad blocker on any device, according to Blockthrough’s March 2021 survey. But there’s usually a large discrepancy between user-reported and detected ad-blocked sessions, which often indicate far lower ad blocker usage than users themselves report in surveys. 

For example, in Q2 2020, AudienceProject detected ad blocker use in 18% of sessions on desktop sessions and 7% of mobile sessions—but 37% and 15% of surveyed users indicated they were using an ad blocker on either device, respectively.

Ad blocking demographics

Younger adults are generally more likely to use ad blockers. According to a March 2021 CivicScience survey, six in 10 US adults ages 18 to 24 said they use an ad blocker on desktop or laptop computers, while about half among those ages 25 to 34 and 35 to 54 said they do so. On smartphones, 18- to 24-year-olds were actually the least likely of any age group to use an ad blocker, at 18% adoption—though usage rates on smartphones jumped to over a third among US adults ages 25 to 34 and 35 to 54.

Male internet users are considerably more likely to use ad blockers compared with older users and females. But that rate jumps to over half (51%) among male internet users, versus 30% among those who identified as female. Young males were by far the most likely group to use ad blockers, at 65% adoption among those ages 18 to 29.

When are consumers more tolerant of advertising?

As publishers shift to subscription models, consumers are opting to pay to receive digital content without ads or with reduced ad loads. But in most media channels, consumers are more likely to accept ads when they don’t have to pay to subscribe or can pay less for a subscription. Consumers are also more receptive to lighter, less intrusive ad experiences and incentivized ads that give them more control, such as rewarded video ads.

Most consumers dislike ads on publisher websites, and they especially dislike video ads. But some have more neutral feelings toward web ads, and even ad blocking users are likely to accept ads when those experiences aren’t intrusive.

According to a Q2 2020 AudienceProject survey, nearly half (47%) of US internet users said they feel negatively toward ads on websites, while just 10% had a positive impression. But 41% reported a neutral attitude toward web ads, which may suggest that those users were more tolerant of ads as part of the experience on publisher sites.

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Ad avoidance

Consumers use various methods to avoid ads, including installing ad blockers or paying for ad-free digital media experiences. The dominant reason internet users block ads is due to intrusive or annoying content. But concerns about the privacy of their data also drive ad blocking behavior.

According to an October 2020 Edelman survey of adults worldwide, nearly seven in 10 said they use one or more methods to avoid ads, including by changing their media habits to see fewer ads (49%) and using ad blockers (48%).

Some 45% said they pay for streaming video services that don’t contain ads or have reduced ad loads compared with traditional TV.