Marketers must solve mobile ad fraud to prevent rise of ad blockers, says Adblock Plus

Marketers need to get to grips with growing mobile ad fraud, if they want to prevent the popularity of adblockers on desktop spreading to mobile.

Ad blocking: malicious apps will boost ad blocker installations
Ad blocking: malicious apps will boost ad blocker installations

That's according to the the chief of operations at Adblock Plus, one of the most popular ad blockers on desktop.

At the moment, a relatively small fraction of users block ads on mobile. But Ben Williams believes the growing issue of malicious apps hosted by Google's, Apple's and third-party app stores will drive up the use of ad blockers on mobile, as users become increasingly concerned about their privacy.

The mobile advertising industry is going to have to start addressing some pretty big grievances currently in the market

He said: "As consumers start to place a greater reliance on mobile technology for viewing, storing and sharing data it’s likely these concerns will transcend across and if that is the case, the mobile advertising industry is going to have to start addressing some pretty big grievances currently in the market, notably the rise in mobile advertising fraud.

He added: "The next challenge therefore will be addressing negative perceptions of mobile advertising, amongst mainstream consumers, who are likely to switch off if they feel threatened, turning to tools which can support their security needs, such as ad blocking technology."

The $1 billion problem

A recent Forensiq report found that that malicious apps hosted by mainstream app stores were costing US advertisers $1 billion a year.

A malicious app might, for example, hijack a phone as part of a spam botnet. That botnet fraudulently looks at ads, costing brands money. It also uses up the phone's processing power, giving users a slower experience and making them more likely to install an ad blocker.

The issue is more serious on desktop, where around 5% of the entire internet population blocks ads, according to a report last year from PageFair and Adobe. That number will now be considerably higher.

Williams added: "The popularity of ad blocking shows just how eager consumers are for wanting to avoid annoying and intrusive adverts regardless of whatever device they are on."

Williams suggested that ad industry representatives should work more closely with privacy advocates, ad blockers and users to solve the issue.

Currently, ad blocking is more popular on the desktop web. A report last year from PageFair and Adobe claimed 5% of the entire internet population was using an ad blocker on desktop, while the figure on smartphones was neglible.

But the report predicted a rise in mobile ad blocking through 2015, and it may already be on its way to the mainstream with the release of Apple's upcoming iPhone software update, iOS 9.

The update will allow developers building extensions for Safari to block cookies, pop-ups and other ad tools. That would allow Safari users to block both content and ads on while browsing the mobile web with relative ease.

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