Google already has some internal ad guidelines and policies of its own around what ads are acceptable, including technical requirements geared toward user experience.
Google also operates an ad preferences center where users can manage what ads they see, and it’s been doing research to try and figure out what makes ads annoying to users.
But these aren’t enforceable across the entire Internet.
In 2015, Google launched a so-called sustainable advertising unit helmed by DoubleClick vet Scott Spencer, perhaps a step in the direction of an industry standard.
It’s Spencer’s job to help Google improve online advertising and develop Google’s strategy around ad blocking.
The sustainable advertising group’s main goal for 2016 is “ensuring that we take the demand for ad blockers out of the system – that consumers should want to see ads and not be annoyed,” Spencer said at AdExchanger’s Industry Preview event in January.
Getting publishers on board across the board, though, for a Google-led (supposedly industrywide) acceptable ads-like initiative will likely be an uphill battle.
Perhaps Google will use Accelerated Mobile Pages, its project to speed up the mobile web, as an enticement and a cudgel by making participation in its version of an acceptable ads program into a prerequisite for AMP.
Google might also try to freeze out ABP with a sucker punch to where it hurts most – in the wallet.
With ABP licking its wounds – Google doubtlessly represents an enormous portion of its overall revenue – Google could present its own acceptable ads standard with backing from the Interactive Advertising Bureau and its ad blocker-hating chief, Randall Rothenberg.
But it couldn’t be positioned as a Google solution. Whatever Google puts out there would need industrywide support from trade bodies, advertisers, publishers and browsers.
Sridhar Ramaswamy, Google’s top-ranking ad exec, said as much on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt on Tuesday.
“We want this to be for the entire industry,” Ramaswamy said. “We want to make sure that we actually work cooperatively with the publishers, with the IAB, with everybody that’s out there.”
Initiatives like the IAB’s LEAN program to make ads light, encrypted, ad choice compliant and noninterruptive are fine, but the goal is to come up with something more actionable, a “standard that advertisers and publishers can follow,” Ramaswamy said.
It’s an enormous undertaking, but let’s say Google can rally the entire industry to its side. What will happen to Eyeo’s Acceptable Ads initiative as it exists today?
“It’ll stand strong,” Murphy said. “I doubt many if any of Eyeo’s partners would take a financial loss just to send a message.”
Google declined to comment for this story.