IAB study suggests Canadian ad blocking in decline

IAB Canada president sees a lot of potential in new stats on user expectations

A study conducted by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) of Canada published Tuesday suggests the use of ad blockers is in decline among Canadians.

The six month study that concluded in January, co-sponsored by ComScore and Intact Financial, found that only 17% of Canadians use ad blockers. This could mark a decline from last year when a similar study by PageFair and Adobe reported that 20% of the country used blockers.

(ComScore and IAB Canada polled more than 30,000 desktop PC users in an opt-in panel. By comparison, PageFair tracked multi-year ad blocker download data, comparing download volumes to internet-using population statistics to determine ad blocking penetration.)

The IAB report also highlights the discovery that a certain portion of the ad blocking population — 13% — have since disabled their blocker.

“When you ask individuals why they disabled their ad blockers, they stated the fact that it was about user experience,” said Sonia Carreno, the president of IAB Canada. “Either the ad blocker didn’t do what it said it was going to do properly, or it was disrupting the content that was on the publisher’s site, which is huge for us.”

According to the study, 17% of former ad-blockers felt it was unnecessary, 12% complained of important features being blocked and 10% said the software would interfere with browser or device functions.

Carreno also believes that the decline in ad blocking among Canadians is thanks in part to a renewed focus on user experience by publishers and advertisers.

“We still have our work to do as an industry, and we still have to make good on the commitments the industry has made, not only in Canada but globally, to adhere to LEAN ad standards,” said Carreno, adding that pay walls and whitelist requests are also effective. “Best practices are no longer a ‘nice to have.’ When you follow best practices, you get rewarded with better relationships with consumers.”

Anecdotally, Carreno said that many of the premium Canadian content publishers she works with that strictly adhere to industry best practices enjoy only single-digit ad blocking penetration.

“If you’ve got 17% [ad block] usage, and then you look at the premium publishers and they’re in the single digits — some of them in the low single digits in terms of ad blocking composition — that says a lot about where the usage is being focused,” she said. “It’s being focused in areas that probably don’t put that much investment towards content, towards journalism and towards Canadians production, which is a good news story.”

While use of ad blockers ranged from coast to coast — with only 11% penetration in the Atlantic provinces, compared to 19% penetration in British Columbia — the highest usage across the country is by millennial males, 28% of whom use ad blockers.


The report’s brightest beacon of hope for digital advertising, however, is the fact that 78% of respondents said they preferred a free, ad-supported web experience to pay-for-content alternatives.

“This absolutely restores faith in the Canadian consumer,” said Carreno, adding, “I don’t think we’re out of the woods yet. We still have our work to do as an industry.”

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