iOS9: Will Mobile Ad Blocking Ruin Advertising?

by | Sep 28, 2015

The sky is falling.

iOS9-enabled ad blockers rain from the heavens, wreaking havoc across the mobile landscape below.

Amid the carnage, consumers arm themselves with ad blocking technology. They gather eagerly at the gates of the Internet, readying to plunder its content freely without the annoyances and restrictions of mobile advertisements.

Meanwhile, advertisers and publishers brace for a cold inevitability. Many cry “This is the end!” as they prepare to watch their revenue streams drip… drip… drip. And evaporate into nothing.

If you’ve read any news surrounding Apple’s iOS9 ad blocking announcement, this might be the kind of bleak picture that was painted.

Apple pulled the trigger. Mobile ads are dying.

And yet, lost among the apocalyptic proclamations remains an important question that isn’t getting nearly enough attention.

Which mobile ads are Apple killing exactly?

The simple answer is mobile browser ads – and they were on death row long before Apple made its controversial announcement.

Apple’s iOS9 technology enables ad blocking extensions specifically for its Safari web browser. And while that may seem like a decisive death blow to mobile advertising – especially given the popularity of the Safari browser – we have to remind ourselves where consumer eyeballs are going.

Yes, consumer eyeballs are going to mobile.

But they largely aren’t going to the Safari browser, or any web browser for that matter.

No, consumer eyeballs are going to mobile apps – a vital distinction that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Observe the below infographic and you’ll see that consumer migration to in-app mobile usage has been a growing trend for years now.

iOS9 Mobile Ad Blocking -The Mobile Majority

We’re at a point now in 2015 where an average consumer spends only 12 percent of their time on their mobile phone in a web browser. And if the past is any indication of the future, that percentage will continue to decrease as more apps flood the market, replacing the need for web browser functionalities.

Apple’s move to block mobile web ads won’t reverse that trend. If anything, it will only encourage web producers and publishers to create more content for in-app consumption, expediting the rise of the mobile app ecosystem with additional functionality like deep-linking.

It’s an evolution we wrote about back when Apple first announced its ad blocking technology. The value of mobile web ad inventory is going to decrease, while the value of in-app inventory will increase.

And even as it stands today, Apple’s new technology affects a very small margin of consumer time spent on mobile. All you have to do is a bit of math.

If only 12 percent of consumer time spent is in mobile web, and only 44 percent of that time is spent on the web browser Safari, and only an estimated 8 percent of Safari users will install an ad blocker… you get a very small percentage of time spent on mobile that’s affected by Apple’s ad blocking technology.

0.4 percent to be exact.

So before we all decide to ‘cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war,’ let’s remember where the industry is going:

  • Consumers are using mobile apps in larger and larger numbers for greater percentages of time. Money will therefore continue to shift towards in-app advertising, which will in turn continue to temper the effect of a now ad-blocking Safari mobile web browser.
  • For advertisers, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room to be watchful. In-browser ads are still in demand, and those that do demand it will certainly be affected in some way by Apple’s decision.
  • The fact that Apple has only enabled ad blocking for mobile web doesn’t preclude the eventual manifestation of some new ad blocking technology that sets its sights on mobile apps.

But as it stands today, Apple’s decision to enable ad blocking for the Safari mobile web browser shouldn’t cause widespread panic.

And it certainly won’t cause the death of mobile advertising, nor will it even slow it down.

Apple blocking in-browser ads simply encourages the mobile advertising industry to make the change it was already in the process of making: better ads for an in-app mobile environment.