The Ad Tech Rumor Mill Churns News Of A Chrome Ad-Block Addition

google chrome imgRumors that Google is considering adding a built-in ad-blocking feature to its Chrome browser elicited a mix of shouts and shrugs across the digital advertising landscape.

The potential Chrome ad-blocking extension, first reported Wednesday by The Wall Street Journal, would block ad formats deemed unacceptable by the Coalition for Better Ads (CFBA), a cross-industry trade association founded last year to formalize digital standards.

Though the CFBA is uninvolved with the reported Chrome ad blocker, “it’s the logical extension of the goal we’re trying to achieve and in line with what stakeholders said they intended to do when standards were established,” said Stuart Ingis, a partner at the law firm Venable who represents the organization.

With so few details known and the product unconfirmed, companies across the digital media spectrum are holding their peace.

“We do not comment on rumor or speculation,” said a Google spokesperson. “We’ve been working closely with the Coalition for Better Ads and industry trades to explore a multitude of ways Google and other members of the coalition could support the Better Ads Standards.”

Digital Content Next, a trade group for digital media suppliers, “is 100% committed to the Coalition for Better Ads as the forum for addressing consumer concerns around ad experiences,” according to association President Jason Kint.

“We’ll wait to hear publicly from Google on what exactly they’re planning to roll out,” he said

The Wall Street Journal reported that autoplay videos with automatic sound and prestitial ads with countdowns (which are full-page takeovers before entering a site) are among the ad formats being considered for blocking by Chrome.

Some top media brands, including Forbes, carry at least one format that fail to meet those standards, said Ben Barokas, founder and CEO of the publisher technology company Sourcepoint.

“I’d guess it’s on purpose that there are no specifics,” Barokas said, “because on some things they may or may not have the mandate of the industry to decide what’s acceptable and what’s not.”

The addition of ad blocking to Chrome “raises the perception of anticompetitiveness,” but isn’t expected to impact business, according to a CFBA member and Google competitor speaking on background due to nondisclosure agreements. Establishing ad standards “is really what the CFBA was created for.”

The most impacted stakeholders would theoretically be long-tail and traffic-sourced publishers with unapproved formats and extension-based ad blockers.

Adblock Plus (ABP) is the world’s most popular ad blocker and the lead supplier for the Acceptable Ads program, a publisher whitelisting program that supplies most of the world’s ad-blocking revenue, but it’s heavily reliant on Chrome for distribution of its browser extension.

“I’d be concerned if I were ABP that this is in essence a competitor,” Barokas said. “I don’t know if it dampens demand for ad blocking, but it probably does nip their adoption and any of those specific extensions.”

ABP can’t comment on rumors, operations manager Ben Williams told AdExchanger – although the company has commented regularly on rumors in the past.

In a tweet responding to questions about potential competitive concerns, ABP co-founder and Chairman Tim Schumacher said that “ad-blocking extensions like ABP are user-mandated and more powerful, and will always exist. But mainstream use might suffer.”

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