PageFair reports ad blockers actually on the rise in Canada

New download data contradicts IAB and ComScore polls

Jared Lindzon October 04, 2016

Ad blocking technology has increased to 24% penetration in Canada from 20% in 2015, according to PageFair.

The Dublin-based technology company devoted to helping publishers fight ad blocking recently released its 2016 ad blocking report.

While this information may be discouraging to an advertising industry that PageFair says has already lost $22 billion to ad blocking, Matthew Cortland, PageFair’s head of communications, believes there may be a silver lining.

“The change that we have seen in Canada is consistent with the trend we are observing globally: desktop ad block adoption is growing gradually and linearly in mature markets, but at a slower rate than we’ve seen in previous years,” he said. “The slowdown could be due to a variety of factors, such as changing internet habits from desktop to mobile,” said Cortland.

However, these new figures seem at odds with findings from ComScore and the Interactive Advertising Bureau of Canada, which released study findings in May that showed ad blockers had dropped to 17% penetration.

Cortland believes the discrepancy is a result of two different study methodologies. “From our analysis, ad blocking on desktop browsers in Canada, like in many mature Western markets, is increasing gradually and linearly,” he said.

For its study, ComScore and IAB Canada polled more than 30,000 desktop PC users in an opt-in panel.

“ComScore’s methodology is a passive observation of Canadian panelists and the incidence of ad blockers on their desktop machines,” said Darrick Li, ComScore’s senior director of sales. “For mobile, we used a survey methodology that weighted against the desktop panel data. With ComScore’s panel, there is a representative population of online users across Canada who opt in (double opt-in) to be a part of the panel. ComScore’s third party measurement provides a robust and granular view of objective and passively observed data on ad blocking installations.”

PageFair’s study, on the other hand, “comes from an analysis of download data from Easylist and its supplementary international blocklists,” said Cortland. He said that those download volumes are compared against internet-using population statistics to determine ad blocking penetration.

Sonia Carreno, IAB Canada’s president, agrees that differing methodologies could account for the discrepancy, and said the IAB “stands behind its data,” adding “we feel confident that ComScore’s methodology covers the broadest range of publishers in the landscape and is able to identify premium versus non-premium among other important factors contributing to the ad blocking discussion.”

A better future

While ad blocking is still on the rise, Cortland believes that the efforts of PageFair and the IAB are beginning to pay off. The IAB is currently putting the finishing touches on its LEAN ad program, which it hopes will discourage users from using ad blockers by exposing them to less intrusive, lighter ads.

“I think that LEAN is one of the initiatives that is progressing the consumer-first conversation that needs to occur to create a sustainable advertising ecosystem, and it shines a light on user experience, privacy, and security,” said Cortland.

PageFair also hosted a series of summits with industry stakeholders earlier this year to address ad blocking, and Cortland believes the newly formed Coalition for Better Ads, lead by Google, Facebook, P&G and others, will take a dent out of ad block use around the world.

“I think we are beginning to see the needle move here, and we are heartened to see stakeholders coming together to act in the best interest of both website publishers and consumers,” he said.

But in spite of these efforts, Cortland suggests it may be too little too late when it comes to winning back the ad blocking audience. “Slowing the new adoption of ad blocking is one thing. But once the industry addresses privacy, security and user experience, how do they get the ad block audience back?”