Why Millennials Block Ads

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It's more about their disdain for bad browser experiences than a dislike of digital advertising.

Though it's been a popular practice for several years, ad blocking has become one of the most popular, and indeed most troubling, topics in business in recent months. Marketers are particularly averse to this widespread phenomenon, and with good reason.

More than 180 million people used an ad blocking browser extension in 2015, according to recent data from PageFair's “2015 Ad Blocking Report.” That's a lot of people, and much of the conversation around ad blocking speaks to the lost revenue that comes with so many users avoiding ads. The why, however, is equally important—perhaps more so.

Why are so many consumers turning to ad blocking technology? The answers are varied and, notably, transcend the superficial notion of users “not liking” digital ads. Here are a few reasons millennials, like myself, are blocking your ads.

For a better browsing experience

We're talking technical difficulties here. The complaint that digital ads can be disruptive is as old as the Web itself at this point. Marketers should always strive to ensure that their messages aren't negatively impacting customers' experiences. Part of this comes down to proper testing and quality assurance.

It's not uncommon to run across a display ad that flows out of its allotted dimensions, or a prestitial ad that scrolls out of view and can't be closed. These bugs are especially common on mobile, where fat fingers and input lag can conspire to lead users to mis-clicking ads

Additionally, many ads contribute to loading issues, especially those that auto-play audio or video content. Indeed, although auto-playing media makes sense from an impressions based metrics standpoint, these types of ads tend to make for a terrible browsing experience. When those ads are broken or buggy ads they become a negative representation of the companies featured in them. It's fairly easy to empathize with consumers who resolve to block all ads simply to avoid these few broken ones.

To bolster security

Remember the notorious pop-up ads? They weren't disliked solely for their tendency to disrupt or intrude; they quickly garnered a reputation as carriers of viral malware that remains today. Malicious ads, malvertising as they're called, continue to permeate the Web, and consumers have taken notice.

Though blocking ads based on their tendency to disrupt is the most common reasoning among ad blocking users, 50% of people who block ads do so out of concern for the improper data use of their personal data, and other security issues, according to the Internet Advertising Bureau UK.

Because we don't like them

Well, we don't. Again, though, the why is important. I can't speak for every millennial, but I find myself particularly vexed by ads that have nothing to do with my preferences. I've meticulously crafted a digital persona that I want marketers to use to serve me better content, and relevant products or services. My data is currency in the age of free and abundant access to content, so I feel my currency is wasted when I'm constantly served ads that promote content I'm not interested in.

Marketers have the tools to address this lack of relevancy. Content marketing and native advertising are tactics that only work in context of the consumer. They are the manifestation of quid-pro-quo marketing in the age of the consumer. Other, more automated solutions exist, and there's merit to them. But, while automated solutions such as display ads continue to dominate the Web, consumers will continue to seek blocking technology.


DMNotes is DMN's around-the-clock blog. Yes, a blog in 2016.

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