Ad Blocking: The Publishers' Unnecessary Judgement Day

Daniel Opler & Jonas Harnow

Student thesis: Master thesis


This thesis examines the growing adoption of Ad blocking tools, which is an immediate threatto online display marketing. Ad blocking prevents ads from being displayed on websites,which interferes with the current online economic ecosystem. Today, Ad blocking has morethan 200 million users and is resulting in massive financial losses for many online publishers.To date, players in the advertising industry have focused on blaming each other as well asthe Ad blocking software companies, instead of trying to understand why the consumers areactually adopting Ad blockers. The focus of this thesis is to understand why consumerschoose to adopt Ad blocking seen from a consumer perspective. To do this we use a varietyof theory within the field of consumer behavior, which can help shed light on what motivatesthe decision for such behavior. Based on six hypotheses, which are constructed to testwhether a variable has a strong relationship with Ad blocking, we structured a set ofquestions and conducted an online survey based on 453 respondents primarily in the agegroup 20-29 years old. The questions in the survey relate to the experience, whichconsumers have with ads on websites.The analysis shows that only two out of six hypotheses could be confirmed. We found thatthere is a strong relationship between the adoption of Ad blocking and perceived level ofnoise on websites caused by ads. Furthermore, we found a strong relationship betweenintrusive ads, which are the ones that disturb the most, and that the accept of those type ofads are directly related to the level of disturbance. Amongst other interesting findings, wefound that consumers actually believe to some degree that ads are relevant, that consumersvery often feel that they are disturbed by ads and also that most consumers click on ads bymistake. Finally, we found that the opinion of those, who have not yet adopted Ad blocking,because they do not know of its existence, and those who consider to adopt an Ad blocker,in many ways show similar opinion traits as those, who already have adopted Ad blocking.Therefore, we imply that if there are no changes to ads as they occur today, especially interms of intrusive and obstructive ad formats, it is simply a matter of time before moreconsumers will adopt an Ad blocking tool and therefore avoid ads on the web.In the last part of this thesis we discuss and seek to give advice on what the stakeholders inthe digital advertising industry can do to hinder the growth of Ad blocking.

EducationsMSc in Economics and Marketing, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2016
Number of pages150