Ad-Blocking Could Be the Solution to Ad-Blocking

A group of companies that depend on advertising are looking for a solution to ad-blockers, the tools that many internet users use to avoid seeing online ads. In an ironic twist, that solution might be an ad-blocker.

Advertising Age reports that the Coalition for Better Ads is discussing how to implement a form of “ad-blocking” on a wide scale to filter out the kinds of ads that ruin the internet experience for many users. The CBA is an association of some major players in tech, advertising and publishing, including the likes of Google, Facebook, Digital Content Next, AppNexus, The Washington Post, Thomson Reuters and others.

News of these discussions comes about a month after the CBA released findings of its own consumer study, on what makes some ads so annoying. Based on responses from about 25,000 participants, the CBA identified a set of desktop and mobile ad types that users hate the most. They include autoplay video ads, pop-up ads with a countdown, full-screen scroll-over ads and other types that interfere with the user experience.

Nothing about these findings should seem surprising. Hardly anyone goes on the internet to look at ads. Rather, looking at ads is a necessary cost of enjoying much of the content on the internet. But now that negative ad experiences are being empirically measured, the question is how to standardize and apply the findings.

The Wall Street Journal reported, citing anonymous sources, that Google plans to implement an ad-blocker natively into its web browser, Chrome. The feature would selectively remove any ads that go against the CBA’s standards.

Google has not yet made an announcement. In a statement obtained by MediaFile, the CBA did not confirm the news reported by the WSJ, but left open the possibility.

“The Coalition has not made any decisions about its approach to these topics. The Coalition will involve its global, cross-industry membership as it discusses next steps,” the statement reads. “Google has expressed their continuing support for, and alignment with, a Coalition process for evaluating technology-based implementations of these standards.”

Jason Kint, CEO of Digital Content Next, a trade association and member of the CBA, reiterated the CBA’s statement.

“We’ll wait to hear publicly from Google on what exactly they’re planning to roll out,” Kint said in a statement sent to MediaFile, adding cryptically: “The world of ad blocking is as murky as they come. Friends and enemies can easily be confused, good and evil often mistaken and interests aren’t always as they appear.”

Currently, anyone can install an ad-blocker as a third-party extension to most browsers. Such extensions generally filter out all ads and allow users to “whitelist” specific domains if they want to support their content, or if a website doesn’t allow the use of an ad-blocker.

But implementation of ad-blocking technology natively into mainstream web browsers is uncharted territory. For internet users who use ad-blockers to avoid annoying and intrusive ads, this solution could eliminate the need for third-party extensions. And implementation by Google would likely have the largest impact. More than half of internet users utilize Chrome as their browser, according to data from StatCounter.

According to a survey by the Interactive Advertising Bureau, which is also a member of the CBA, 26 percent of internet users have an ad-blocker. Of those users, more than two thirds said they would consider not using an ad-blocker if they were given more control, and were guaranteed that the ads they see would be less intrusive.

This is not the first effort to save the ad industry from ad-blockers. In fact, last year, one of the most popular ad-blockers, AdBlock Plus, starting selling ads that complied with its own “Acceptable Ads Program.”

In a MediaFile interview last year about AdBlock Plus’s program, Kint said that “there’s a leadership requirement that’s expected of ‘a Facebook’ or of ‘a Google’” when it comes to managing the kind of ad content that they expose their users.

If the CBA and Google decide to step in and enforce their newfound ad standards, that leadership requirement may be satisfied soon.

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