Adblock Plus and (a little) more

Global research study of ad formats confirms what you already knew: disruptive ads don’t work · 2015-12-10 11:10 by Ben Williams

Adblock Plus recently commissioned a survey in collaboration with market research firm Ipsos. In all, 6,000 people were surveyed in the US, Germany and France about what they think about specific ads … and the findings were exactly what we would have imagined.

Full results of the survey can be found here:

The results validated what our users have told us for years: formats like search, text and banner ads that don’t get in the way are fine. As will come as a surprise to precisely no one, formats like wraparound banners, animated banners and pop-ups were consistently graded as “disruptive.” The slide below shows the US disruption level for each of the 13 types of ads.

Here are a few of the takeaways from the study (although I really recommend you dive in yourself).

  • Ad annoyance knows no borders: in all three countries users consistently found pop-ups, video ads, animated banner ads and “all-around” banner ads the most annoying formats. By contrast, they did not find text, search or “conservative” banner ads disruptive.
  • The terrible two: “all-around” banner ads and pop-ups. When individual rankings were figured, 63 (US), 65 (Germany) and 73 percent (France), respectively, ranked these as their top two most disruptive formats.
  • “All-around” banner ads, animated banners, pop-ups and video ads not only scored low – they got the absolute worst score more often than any formats. These types of ads got a “disruption score” of over 90 percent more than any other types.
  • Search, text and conservative banner ads not only scored high – they got the best score: These type of ads consistently received a “disruption score” of less than 5 percent.

How it was conducted

There were two parts to the test. Part one just asked people what they thought about each of the 13 types of ads successively on a scale of 1 to 6, with 6 being “very disruptive” and 1 not “at all.” The second part established a weighted score for each ad format tested on a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 being “very disruptive” and 0 not “at all.” The results of the two parts were very similar.

The research firm conducted the study as an online questionnaire in October and November. They surveyed sample populations of around 2,000 participants each in the United States, France and Germany.

Why it was done

Adblock Plus sponsored the three surveys to solidify the criteria used by the Acceptable Ad program, which will soon be managed by an independent committee. In the coming weeks, we will announce improvements to the Acceptable Ads criteria that make them easier to enforce, easier to understand and more transparent. Moving forward, the independent Acceptable Ads Committee will handle any changes to the Acceptable Ads program. These improvements will help them start their job out on the right foot.

Comment [14]

  1. Trevor Marsh · 2015-12-10 17:18 · #

    So now conduct the same poll to the same people but just ask the following question:-

    “Do you find adverts on web pages disruptive”?

    Nothing else, just that; of course you know what the results would be which is why you’ve set your questions the way you have. To get the results you want so you can make money from companies requesting their ads get added as “acceptable” to Adblocker.

    Although how a product titled “Adblocker” can be set to let any ads be displayed is mind boggling to say the least. You do know the meaning of the word “block” I assume?

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    We did ask that question — see page 13.

    You can take a cynical view of Acceptable Ads, fine. And you’re right that it does provide monetization for us — but it also encourages better ads. If you hate it, you could just turn it off: https://adblockplus.org/en/acceptable-ads#optout

    Finally, I actually agree with you that “adblock” is a poor name for what we do. “Web customizer” is more along the lines of our mission. But we began as a complete, black-and-white ad blocker. We didn’t change the name when we developed Acceptable Ads because branding.

  2. Ion Griffis · 2015-12-10 19:19 · #

    There is NO such thing as ACCEPTABLE ads thats why I use an adblocker….. If I want ads I will go quite happily find them on commercial shoppings sites where I expect them to be not on every other fucking page and that includes things like Wikipedia and other places where ads should not be in the first place Social networking is a prime example….

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Thanks for the passionate feedback. If you hate all ads, please remember you can turn off Acceptable Ads: https://adblockplus.org/en/acceptable-ads#optout

  3. Sue Beardslee · 2015-12-10 19:38 · #

    I want to know why ad blockers won’t block ALL ads. That’s what I got one for. All ads are incredibly annoying and I will often not return to a site that has them.

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Sounds like it could be one of two things: either you’ve picked up some malware that’s sneaking in ads.

    Or, more likely, you are seeing ads that have been whitelisted. Don’t want those? Easy, just opt out: https://adblockplus.org/en/acceptable-ads#optout

  4. Rastislav · 2015-12-11 07:15 · #

    I am a man. My mind is made of many boxes, each containing a single activity. Internet related boxes include: work, relaxation, social interaction, reading news and shopping. There is a single rule: boxes must never ever touch.

    For me it is absolutely unacceptable if a foreign element (ad) disrupts the current activity, the size/color/position is irrelevant. For example while reading news, an ad to buy yogurt is unacceptable. But an ad that extend the current activity, eg. shopping for electronics, an ad to buy TV is acceptable add.

    I refuse to turn off the add blocking for any site that is not able to understand it.

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Those are some pretty high standards :) But there’s no reason not to expect that level of sophistication among ads. And, hey, if advertisers advertised to you like you wanted, that would help them too, right?

  5. Brian T. Nakamoto · 2015-12-11 20:00 · #

    It sounds like the goal of this survey is to help determine which types of ads will be Acceptable Ads. It’d be great if a future version of this survey tried to get a sense of how effective the ad types are, for example, in terms of how it makes the viewer feel about the advertised product and site. This type of data would be helpful in working with advertisers and publishers who feel they’re being assaulted by ad blockers.

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    I completely agree. The scope of this survey was fairly narrow, so it begs the question for a similar one that asks why people liked/disliked ads and probably a host of other questions.

  6. Alexey · 2015-12-11 22:26 · #

    I’m wondering why “all-around” ads got so high notoriety rating. Because personally for me “unskippable video” ads are most annoying: when to see a 15-seconds “cat on a bike” video I have to watch over-a-minute video about some nonsense. Man, if it was at least relevant to my interests! The only time when a video ad was interesting to me was when a new music group decided to put their song as an ad (“skip” button appeared few seconds later, but i watched the whole clip to the end, and even clicked it at the end).

    While “all-around” ad – it just sits there in background and on the sides of my screen, not interrupting me and the content. I’d maybe even rate “text ad in the middle of normal text” higher!

    Maybe that’s because I browse from a big-screen and powerful device, while in this research you asked mostly laptop users – for them, i guess, indeed, big ad means bigger power consumption, fan speed, electricity and Internet bills.

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Yeah, see what you mean. It’s an individual thing obviously; but I guess for me I’d put all-around a notch above the video ones just because the video ads are done when they’re done. The all-around just sit in the background, like they’re staring at me while I’m reading the content they’re hugging.

  7. Kristoffer Juls E. Jose · 2015-12-12 03:25 · #

    This just proves that the most annoying ads are popups.

    Anyway, since people are used to calling you Adblock Plus, your name must remain that way.

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Yeah, agreed (on both counts).

  8. The Cynical Person...Like Us All · 2015-12-12 14:22 · #

    Hello, Adblock Plus. I, like many, are quite angry that you even have “Acceptable” ads at all. Yes, we are cynical, or you are just money-greedy. Since you are open-source, wouldn’t a better way to monetise be to ask for donations? Like, leave a small reminder in the adblock plus settings window and in the after-install webpage that shows up? Like in the regular Adblock which you guys acquired? (Don’t say you didn’t, no-one else does that “acceptable” ads rubbish). If you guys were true about acceptable ads, you would’t need to have companies pay to get added to list.

    Think about it. Mozilla put ads in Firefox’s new tab page and everybody hated it. Everyone. Now, after 8 months, Mozilla is removing those because, unlike you, they actually listen to their user-base. You are “AdBlock Plus”, or is it “Adblock Plus Acceptable Ads”??? Please get rid of them.

    We want Adblock, not “acceptable” ads, which are NOT acceptable at all.

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Hating Acceptable Ads is 100 percent acceptable — just because we think it’s a good idea doesn’t mean you do. So, why not just turn it off? Also, we didn’t acquire AdBlock. Why wouldn’t we say so if we did?

    Also, I wonder why you associate open source with donations? Open source does not equal nonprofit. We could not continue improving this free project, addressing all our costs, etc on donations. We also aren’t about to start charging for the extension. Why do you feel so bad for the 10 percent of huge players on the list that have to pay anyway?

  9. The Cynical Person...Like Us All · 2015-12-12 14:24 · #

    Oh yeah and Ben Williams that sarcastic comment about “passionate” feedback was unacceptable. Just like ads.

  10. James Edward Lewis II · 2015-12-15 20:17 · #

    That’s crazy, that people seriously think you could somehow acquire Betafish Inc. (the company behind AdBlock) and keep it a secret; it smacks of last year’s accusations that Google had already bought Twitch and every mild annoyance in its service was a result.

    I still think the “keep the rise of adblocking from destroying the free-to-end-user Web” explanation for the Acceptable Ads Initiative is better than the “extorting websites for money/shills for the big advertisers” explanation.

    I am curious about which blockers pre-load the Acceptable Ads whitelist: I know ABP, AdBlock, and the iOS-Safari blocker Crystal do it, and Adguard does something similar (with its own whitelist, not Eyeo’s).

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Thanks for the comment. Can’t help but nod my head when I read it :) To your question, there are three ad blockers that currently employ the Acceptable Ads whitelist: ABP, AdBlock and Crystal.

  11. robsku · 2015-12-21 04:46 · #

    I’m constantly baffled of these passionate “acceptable ads” badmouthers (I will call them that, because they do have bad manners and little to say). I want to comment you’re opinions too, but in the end part. First I’ll reply to article, but you should read that too.

    1st. I think Adblock plus is great and fitting name for you. Not only would changing it cause confusion with, especially with new installs – people would flock to alternatives, some to AdBlock, thinking it’s the same. Why?
    Because what they want.

    2. What they want installed is something to block distracting ads – not a tool to slowly try change the nature of advertising.
    Besides one thing that won’t go away is ABP blocking ads – we can hope the filtering lists will grow smaller; and thus also faster; but there will always be ads somewhere that remain as bad as the worst have been.
    And there will be those who don’t want any ad’s – personally I’ve disabled acceptables list on phone, the screen is simply too small for extra I won’t click, but on my PC with FullHD tv as monitor I’ve allowed them. I, who have repeatedly said I won’t click the ad’s anyway, even once or twice clicked an ad on search engine; duckduckgo I think, it saves your settings in a cloud anonymously and uses hashed passwords in cookie to load them, so not only can you use them on any browser anywhere, but also have multiple – I have one extra for mobile&small screen, and it has option to support them or disabling ads, and on mobile I’ve disabled it as I use number of browsers, enable ABP proxy & switch my unrooted Androids mobile APN to copy set to use local ABP proxy (ahem, only on Wi-Fi? Since ZTE-BLADE with 2.1 upgraded to 2.2 and Samsung cheap trend+ with 2.4.1 to LG with 4.2.2, all let create own APN, and APN has proxy setting, so unless your provider uses some weird proxy for mobile internet you should alter the guide to remove false claim that manual configuration is limited to Wi-Fi – the app is your best solution, but you’ve neglected its development, as well as imho the Firefox plugin; instead you made ABP browser, which seemed just as stupid idea as “lastpass browser”.

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    This is exactly what I mean when I say “web customizer” — you’re a great example of someone who customizes their web experience with ABP.

  12. Christopher Marshall · 2015-12-27 19:01 · #

    I think that by default, ALL ads should be blocked and if you want acceptable ads, you should have to opt in. I suspect that if people are that annoyed to get Ad Block Plus, they will certainly want no advertising at all. This is certainly true for me.

    I know you can opt out, but that’s not really the point, is it. Users are downloading an Ad blocker, by default all ads should be blocked. I agree with making it optional, that is a good idea. But while it’s not a lot of hassle to go to the options and check a checkbox, be honest – it’s a pain to have to do.

    I’d be interested to see how old the survey results are regarding ‘Acceptable ads’, and how many people today (if surveyed) would still want them. I’m pretty certain a lot of people wouldn’t.

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Hey, sorry for the late response … holidays.
    Anyway, yeah, blocking all ads will always be an option, but from our perspective allowing some ads is better. That’s why we make it the “standard” package you get when you download ABP.

  13. campones · 2016-01-10 18:09 · #

    You all make me laugh.. you spend your time watching ads on tv.. in the US there is like 30min ads break for a 20min tv show.. of course, nothing you can do about it but when it comes to internet, then you think naturally you shouldn’t see any ads.. how funny!

    People behind the scene work a lot to provide content and to maintain services available.. working time, servers costs.. learning process.. etc. do you really think this is free? do you guys go work for free monday mornings?? I don’t think so.

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Nope, we know it’s not free. We also don’t think blocking all the ads is the answer: https://adblockplus.org/acceptable-ads

  14. campones · 2016-01-11 22:57 · #

    yea right, for most small websites, the “acceptable ads” just don’t generate ANY incomes. this is as simple as that.

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Sounds like you’re a website owner?

    Have you tried it yourself? If not, send me an email. You might be surprised.

Commenting is closed for this article.