The use of ad blockers rose faster in Ireland than almost every other country last year and it now ranks joint second globally behind only Indonesia in terms of such technology, according to a new report.
Data compiled by Dublin-based start-up PageFair, which works with leading publishers to overcome ad-blocking software, shows a spike in use by internet users in Ireland in the second half of 2016.
At the end of last year, some 39 per cent of Irish internet users were relying on adblocking software with the number of devices with such software installed rising from to 776,929 in January to 1,470,213 in December.
Only Indonesia, where 58 per cent of internet users use ad blockers, are there more people using such software than in Ireland or Greece, which also has a 39 per cent usage level.
PageFair said it was unable to account for the sharp increase in Irish users deploying ad blockers but said increased media coverage may have contributed to the rise.
Overall, about 11 per cent of internet users across the globe now rely on ad blockers to avoid digital marketing.
According to PageFair’s study, more than 615 million devices worldwide are now blocking online ads. This represents year-on-year global growth of 30 per cent.
Mobile adblock usage alone grew by 108 million in 2016, reaching a total of 380 million active devices. More than 90 per cent of all ad-blocking on mobile devices takes place in the Asia-Pacific region.
Despite a drop-off in the number of people using desktop and laptop computers, adblock usage on these platforms grew by 34 million last year to reach 236 million active devices.
While mobile ad blocking currently lags in North America and Europe, PageFair warned it could accelerate unexpectedly in the coming year if manufacturers or distributors close a deal to pre-configure adblock software, as some have threatened to do.
The study shows adblock usage has spread far beyond its “early adopter” base of young males – who used the technology primarily because of privacy issues – to a broader demographic that includes men and women of all ages.
Interestingly, adblock usage was seen to be driven by specific problems with the delivery of online advertising and therefore is not necessarily a rejection of digital advertising itself.
According to the study, concern over viruses and malware were the top reasons cited by users for using adblock software, as was irritation with the type of ads served up.
Johnny Ryan, PageFair’s head of ecosystem, said ad blocking had firmly hit the mainstream and that publishers needed to respond.
“Publishers must listen to the legitimate grievances of their users because ads have been pretty awful over the last 15 years and are getting worse. Ads aren’t just jumping around the screen and following users but are also snooping on them and exposing them to security hazards,” he said.
“Having listened to users, publishers need to respond by fixing the problem and instead using simple formats that are tamper-proof,” Mr Ryan added.
Ranelagh-based PageFair, which was founded in 2012 by entrepreneurs Sean Blanchfield, Brian McDonnell and Neil O'Connor, is looking to double its workforce from 15 to 30 this year. The company's technology is used by thousands of publishers to monitor and counteract ad blockers.