Stats of the Week: UX gets an F

Ad blocking is on the rise, in large part because advertisers haven’t got their user experiences up to snuff, as these stats from new IAB research reflect. 

None of the Stats of the Week pertain to ad blocking having a huge impact on the industry. Even if you don’t know the specific numbers – nearly 420 million users around the world – you know they’re quite high.

Ad blocking is much more pervasive in Asia than in North America. China has 159 million people using ad blockers, compared with 2.3 million people in the U.S. However, the main reason there isn’t more ad blocking happening stateside is that people don’t realize that it’s an option.


After surveying 3,600 people in the U.S., U.K., Brazil, Australia, France and Sweden, Midia Research reported that only 41 percent of  people know about ad blockers. And of those who are aware, 80 percent use them.

In conversations about the root of ad blocking, poor user experience (UX) is often the culprit.

“We, as an industry, have completely gone overboard and started plastering over the content consumers are interested in,” says Lars Bastholm, global chief creative officer at The ZOO at Google, an agency-like team within the search giant’s sales organization. “It’s hard to dismiss that ads disrupt anything we are trying to do. There are always consequences when you piss off the users.”

Yesterday, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) released “Improving Digital Advertising Experiences with Liquid Creativity,” a whitepaper that tackles exactly that. Partnering with Refinery29 and mobile ad marketplace Kargo, the IAB surveyed 283 brand marketers and agency buyers, and found several figures that come down to UX simply not being good enough.


Of those 283 respondents, 79 percent place the highest level of importance on the overall site/app experience and page load time. Most of the other aspects of advertising listed – creative quality, responsive design, personalization, number of ads – were prioritized to nearly the same degree.

And they all contribute to the overall experience in their own ways. Seeing the same ad a million times, seeing irrelevant ads, pages that are slow too load – all poor UX.



According to the survey, 73 percent of marketers and media agency executives consider UX to be one of the major challenges facing digital marketers today, particularly regarding ad clutter, quality of creative, and the interruptive nature of many ads. Among that 73 percent is Marisa Thalberg, chief marketing officer at Taco Bell.

“The industry has to get smart about user design. When it’s good, it’s because consumers don’t feel the advertising, just have a good experience. It’s the same for advertisers,” she says.

Along those lines, 88 percent of respondents think that providing a good UX is “essential.”


Of the IAB survey’s respondents, 54 percent cited ad clutter as the biggest obstacle to a good UX, distantly followed by the quality of creative and overall experience. Video and audio auto-play, while frequently called nuisances to consumers, aren’t nearly as concerning to the average user. Only 18 and 16 percent, respectively, consider that to be the top detractor.



The proliferation of mobile devices means that marketers must be on top of multiple forms of UX. Mobile now accounts for 65 percent of the time we spend online, taking both browsers and apps into consideration.

Looking past just smartphones, the average household of four or more people has 18 active devices. That also includes tablets, in addition to TVs, computers, and gaming consoles.

“Mobile requires not only a change in philosophy, but also a change in practice that includes collecting new device-specific insights, using data more wisely, fusing creativity and technology more fluidly and brainstorming across more partners,” says Ryan McConville, president and chief operation officer at Kargo. “It’s time to stop recycling and instead reinvent the mobile advertising experience.”


Related reading