Ad Blocking

49 Pages Posted: 18 Jan 2018 Last revised: 10 Apr 2021

See all articles by Aleksandr Gritckevich

Aleksandr Gritckevich

Columbia Business School - Marketing

Zsolt Katona

University of California, Berkeley - Haas School of Business

Miklos Sarvary

Columbia University - Columbia Business School, Marketing

Date Written: March 7, 2021


In recent years, ad blocking has become a significant threat to advertising supported content. Adblockers typically negotiate with publishers, allowing some ads to go through in return for a payment, a practice called (partial) ``whitelisting'' in the industry. Ad blocking has a direct positive effect on consumers by reducing advertising intensity. On the other hand, the practice clearly hurts publishers and reduces their incentives to invest in content quality. Lower content quality, in turn has an indirect negative effect on consumers. This paper builds an analytic model to explore what the net impact of ad blocking on consumers is, how it depends on various market characteristics and how uniformly it affects consumers. The results show that, under a broad set of market conditions, total consumer surplus and even total welfare decline under ad blocking. While some consumers are always better off with an adblocker, for the average consumer, the impact of quality decline is larger than that of ad reduction. The analysis highlights the detrimental role of adblockers' current revenue model - in which value is created for the consumers but it is captured from publishers - in decreasing quality, consumer surplus and total welfare. Analyzing the impact of varying levels of negotiation power between the adblocker and publisher reveals that full negotiation power is not preferred by the adblocker. A lower negotiation power allows the adblocker to commit to less value extraction from the publisher, thereby leading to higher content quality. Additional model extensions show that the main results are robust. In the case of multiple publishers with different levels of competition between them, the strong negative effect of ad blocking on quality holds.

Keywords: Digital Advertising, Ad Avoidance, Expropriation, Consumer Protection

JEL Classification: C72, D18, D21, L14, M37

Suggested Citation

Gritckevich, Aleksandr and Katona, Zsolt and Sarvary, Miklos, Ad Blocking (March 7, 2021). Columbia Business School Research Paper No. 18-11, Available at SSRN: or

Aleksandr Gritckevich

Columbia Business School - Marketing ( email )

New York, NY
United States

Zsolt Katona (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley - Haas School of Business ( email )

545 Student Services Building, #1900
2220 Piedmont Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

Miklos Sarvary

Columbia University - Columbia Business School, Marketing ( email )

New York, NY 10027
United States

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