The move is seen as highly controversial because AdBlock Plus decides what “acceptable ads” look like and charges publishers to get their ads on its network. Ads that pass will be shown to people who have downloaded AdBlock Plus’ ad blocking software.
The Acceptable Ads Platform already has question marks against its name, with Google and AppNexus both publicly critical.
And over the past 24 hours, around 600 Brits have taken to social media to discuss the announcement, with it trending at the top of Twitter at various points yesterday (13 September).
In the 24 hours following the announcement, social media firm Meltwater gauged people’s reactions on Twitter, blogs, YouTube and Facebook, with positive and negative comments each making up 23.9% of feedback, while 50.3% were neutral.
Globally, PageFair recently found 419 million people are now blocking ads on mobile, with a further 198 million using the technology on desktop. The UK, meanwhile, is thought to be one of the most mature markets when it comes to ad blocker adoption. And Jim Coleman, the managing director of We Are Social, says the latest move by Adblock Plus could alienate this audience as it presents more questions than answers.
“What is worrying is that it is Adblock setting this criteria, not the publishers, which are already suffering enormous loss of revenue from blocked ads,” he says.
“Adblock’s independent review board does not have input from the publishing industry or, one assumes, industry bodies like the Advertising Standards Authority. It remains to be seen what measures will be placed to ensure certain brands aren’t given preference, and how the publishing industry will be able to adapt to monetise the platform.”
The ad industry’s response
Unsurprisingly, the advertising industry, which has backed government-led comments in the not-so-distant-past calling ad blockers a ‘modern day protection-racket’, has torn into Adblock Plus following the move.
“ISBA is concerned that Adblock Plus is charging companies and advertisers to ‘whitelist’ their ads to get through the block,” says Ian Twinn, ISBA’s director of public affairs.
“It has become another intermediary in the whole messy programmatic food chain taking cuts of advertisers’ budgets. The former culture secretary John Whittingdale called them a ‘modern-day protection racket’ at ISBA’s conference and it’s starting to have a ring of truth to it.”
There were similarly stinging remarks from IAB UK’s outgoing CEO Guy Phillipson: “Adblock Plus, who spent years as the consumer champion squashing adverts, now sell ads. We see the cynical move from Adblock Plus as a new string in their racket. Now they’re saying to publishers “we took away some of your customers who didn’t want ads, and now we are selling them back to you on commission.”
He claims Adblock Plus is being forced to sell ads in order to survive following moves by publishers to restrict content from users who have an ad blocker turned on.
“The fact is, in the UK ad blocking has stalled. It’s been stuck at 21% throughout 2016 because the premium publishers who own great content, and provide a good ad experience, hold all the cards.”
Guy Phillipson, outgoing CEO, IAB UK
He adds: “More and more of them are offering ad blocking consumers a clear choice: turn off your ad blocking software or no access to our content. And their strategy is working, with 25% to 40% turning off their blockers.”
Ultimately, the move has done nothing but cause confusion to both consumers and advertisers, according to Nigel Gwilliam, the IPA’s consultant head of media and emerging tech.
He concludes: “No one is quite sure what Adblock Plus is up to, including it would appear, Adblock Plus. The only thing they seem certain about is taking a 30% cut of ads they choose to unblock.”
You sense Ad Blocker Plus will need to turn some of those 50.3% neutrals into backers, and fast.