Advertising on the internet has always created a tug of war between consumers and advertisers. Consumers want clean user experiences and their data to be protected, while advertising helps customers get exposure to products and services. Now, consumers have the ability to shut advertisers out of their experiences with ad blocking technology. But as digital media platforms become increasingly reliant on advertisers’ money, patience for ad blocking has worn thin. 

What is ad blocking?

Ad blocking is the removal or altering of advertising in digital channels by consumers. It includes usage patterns, attitudes, and software on desktop, mobile, and connected TV devices. Some popular ad blocking software like AdBlock and AdBlock Plus can be downloaded as extensions on a web browser, while browsers like Ghostery are designed to block intrusive ads and anonymize personal data. 

Why do consumers use ad blockers?

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

  • As of March 2023, 31% of US adult consumers said they used an ad blocker to protect their privacy, with baby boomers (31%) being more likely than Gen Zers (27%) to use the tech, according to Tinuiti. 

How many people use ad blockers?

As of Q3 2021, 37.0% of internet users worldwide use ad blockers, according to GWI data cited by Hootsuite. Among those, younger consumers are more likely to use ad blockers, with 25- to 34-year-olds taking the top spot. In the US, just over 50% of adults use an ad blocker on their desktop, per March 2021 CivicScience data.

How does ad blocking affect marketers?

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. 

For example, 82% of US consumers said they would continue to use platforms like Google, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and other news and media outlets for free with ads rather than pay to use them, according to a March 2023 Tinuiti survey. 

  • Consumers have shown a willingness to engage with ads if they’re tailored to their interests, and they’re more willing to have their data collected if it means creating a better online experience—but only if that data is being used responsibly and collected on consumers’ terms.
  • 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.

As consumers use ad blockers, the tech makes it harder for advertisers to track and measure their ad campaigns, which could negatively affect advertising revenues.  

What does the future of ad blocking look like?

Tolerance for ad blockers by publishers and platforms is waning. YouTube is leading the charge against video ad blockers, testing a way to warn viewers with ad blocking extensions enabled that they will need to disable their ad blocker, whitelist YouTube, or be restricted to watching only three videos. 

While it’s unclear what the future will look like for video streaming ad blockers as platforms continue to dabble with ad tiers, audio streamers like Spotify and Pandora have been testing and implementing anti-ad blocking technology since 2018. Ad blocking technology will likely always exist in some form, but to what extent still remains to be seen.