This post has been updated on 15 September 2023 to reflect the most recent data available.
Ad blocking doesn’t mean what it used to.
Instead, most of today’s ad blockers integrate some form of ad-filtering. Due to this fundamental change, the practice of ad blocking has shifted—ad blockers aren’t simple all-out-blocking tools, and the overwhelming majority of users are, perhaps surprisingly, a demographic that consents to be served ads.
At eyeo, we’ve recently made a decision that addresses this change: we’ve stopped categorizing our technology as ad-blocking. This shift is a reflection of both our primary focus today and our mission for the last several years.
The Acceptable Ads Standard is specifically designed as a middle-way solution that blocks intrusive forms of advertising but, once user consent is given, allows light and unobtrusive advertisements. This allows publishers to monetize their valuable content; these ads are seen by 300 million users around the world.
But who are ad-filtering users? What motivates them? What is their relationship to privacy, and how do they aid in everything from sustainability efforts to maintaining the vibrancy of the ad ecosystem?
Ten facts about ad-filtering users
Let’s introduce you. Here are ten important facts about this dynamic cross-section of the global population:
...there are currently 300 million ad-filtering users around the world.
That means a group of users (that’s only slightly smaller than the 2023 population of the United States) consents to see nonintrusive ads that adhere to the Acceptable Ads Standard during their browsing experience.
2. Ad-filtering users don’t hate all hate ads
In fact, most are happy to see them.
Past research, conducted using the data available from GlobalWebIndex (GWI) and YouGov, shows that over 90% of ad-blocking users state that they don’t hate ads. Not only that, but more than 83% are happy to see noninvasive, relevant ads. We see this research in action when looking at the number of users on Adblock Plus, AdBlock and other software that allows for an ad-filtering experience.
Not only that, but ad-filtering users prefer ad filtering to other methods of ad curation. According to the 2022 PageFair Adblock Report, 82% of adblock users prefer a lighter ad experience by default over receiving prompts to disable their ad blocker or whitelist a site.
3. Ad-filtering users don’t block all ads
They filter intrusive or annoying ads.
While 81% of users download ad blockers to avoid disruptive/annoying ads (Blockthrough survey), research shows that users don’t mind seeing ads…as long as they don’t interfere with their browsing experience.
(Of course, there are other pressing reasons to steer clear of intrusive forms of advertising. According to GlobalWebIndex (GWI), both US and UK users find that distracting and disruptive ads can jeopardize a brand's online image. So if you’re an advertiser or a publisher reading this, take note!)
The 2021 PageFair Adblock Report reveals that online privacy is growing in importance among users. 56% consider it ‘extremely important’, and 31% say it’s ‘somewhat important’.
In fact, a need for privacy leads to embracing ads. 74% of users don't mind advertising, as long as it respects their privacy and meets certain standards of quality.
There’s more: research from Statista and GWI shows that 44% of users have downloaded ad blockers to avoid being tracked online (Statista) and 59.3 percent need to know how their data will be protected before they feel comfortable sharing it (GWI and eyeo study 2021).
5. Tech-savvy, educated and digital-first: the ad-filtering demographic
Over the decade-long existence of Acceptable Ads, we’ve gotten to know a lot about ad-filtering users. And what we’ve learned is impressive.
Ad filterers are a savvy bunch: 15-19% are more confident in using new technology than the general population of internet users. They’re also 20% more likely to have higher education than non-ad-filtering users.
In 2023, eyeo conducted a study alongside MAGNA IPG on ‘Reaching and Influencing Ad-Filtering Users,’ which revealed that there are 58% more ad-filtering users from Gen Z than non-ad-blocking or non-ad-filtering users.
6. Purchase decision-making: an ad-filtering attribute
The MAGNA study shows that not only are ad-filtering users typically younger, they also make critical purchase decisions. In fact, they’re roughly 16% more likely to be the purchase decision-makers in the financial, tech and auto fields compared to non-ad-filtering users.
Supporting data from GWI shows that 43% of ad-filtering users tend to buy from brands they’ve seen advertisements for, and 58% of ad-filtering users display brand loyalty. Ad-filtering users also spend moretime and money online and they often visit retail websites to discover brands, making them additionally valuable for retailers, publishers, and advertisers.
7. Ad-filtering users support publishers and understand the importance of ads to sustain a thriving online ecosystem
Research shows that 71% of US online users understand that publishers rely on advertising to keep their content free and 63% of ad-blocking users are willing to accept light, nonintrusive advertising to support publishers.
A 2022 eyeo | Samsung Internet study on Samsung Internet (SI) users supports that claim: most users, upon understanding the myriad benefits of ad filtering, are much more open to advertising.
8. A majority of publishers are monetizing ad-filtering users with Acceptable Ads
Of the top 100 US publishers to use adblock-monetization strategies, Acceptable Ads is the most popular.
In fact, all but two of the adblock-monetizing US 100 Comscore publishers use Acceptable Ads. This represents a huge leap: as of 2021, only 52% of these publishers used ad recovery via Acceptable Ads.
9. Banner blindness? Nope. Ad-filtering users are actually ‘ad aware’
Users who see scores of glittery, invasive ads tend to turn a little numb: rather than engage with advertisements, they become what’s known as “banner blind.
However, something very different happens with users who engage with nonintrusive ads like those deemed “acceptable” under the standard set forth by the independent Acceptable Ads Committee. Not only do these users not succumb to banner blindness, but they become ‘ad aware.’ This means that, when shown consented ad formats, these users are more likely to be receptive to and engage with, the ad and the accompanying brand messaging.
The MAGNA study Reaching and Influencing Ad-Filtering Users also found that an ad-filtering experience (browsing in a low-clutter, respectful environment) results in an +82% aided ad recall – showing that ads are more memorable on low-cluttered pages.
10. Ad-filtering users are valuable for advertisers
Ad-filtering users are highly desirable, but it might seem as though they’re difficult to reach. The truth? They’re hiding in plain sight.
Advertisers can reap the benefits of reaching ad-filtering users, serving them fewer but more impactful ads, while simultaneously giving users control over their ad experience.
Reaching and Influencing Ad-Filtering Users outlined how a low-clutter ad environment isn’t just more cost-effective, it’s also a potent driver of establishing brand trust and leads to a more memorable experience for ad-filtering users.
Bonus: 11. Ad filtering helps sustainability efforts
If sustainability is at the forefront of your strategic goals, good news! Ad filtering is an environmentally friendly alternative. Through a combination of ensuring that ads are lower bandwidth (thus generating lower emissions), and reducing the total number of ads on the page, ad filtering is a net win for not only advertisers but for our planet.
You can read more about how ad filtering and Acceptable Ads helps decarbonization efforts here).
Ad-filtering users aren’t simply ad-blocking users with a new name. They’re so much more…and so much more valuable.
Ours is a thriving and vibrant ecosystem, and ad filterers play an important role in keeping the ad ecosystem sustainable for all stakeholders. By consenting to see nonintrusive ads, ad-filtering users get to enjoy an immersive browsing experience—while enabling publishers and advertisers to generate valuable revenue.