The AAC launched five years ago as a nonprofit group created by eyeo, the German tech company that owns Adblock Plus, the largest ad-blocking service, and also operates other smaller ad blockers.
Any ad blocker can plug its audience into the program and advertisers, agencies or ad networks can then serve ads to those users. Google, Criteo, System1 and Rakuten Advertising are among the biggest buyers in the program and pay the most to regain – and monetize – the ad-blocking audience. Large publishers also pay a fee to recover audience revenue.
The AAC has been castigated by the IAB and other industry groups that consider ad blockers to be akin to malware. These parties were incensed by the notion of ad blockers reselling what they view as a publisher’s audience – not the ad-blocker’s audience.
“I understand the perception issues with eyeo historically,” Taouss said. “That took me some time to get comfortable with, but I have gotten to that comfort level and it’s one of the reasons I took the role.”
Although the AAC doesn’t work with any industry trade orgs or standards bodies like the W3C, Taouss said he does think there’s room for collaboration. “A lot of industry groups are pulling in the same direction and we can align on initiatives,” he said.
What sets the AAC apart from other standards bodies, according to Taouss, is that its mandate and committee representation is focused on the user, as opposed to groups that represent certain industry categories.
The AAC has one elected representative for each group of stakeholders, including advertisers, ad tech companies, publishers and agencies, as well as digital rights organizations. The committee also includes multiple ad-blocker users themselves.
“This was the first opportunity that I’d heard of where the user is actually considered as part of the business model and part of the mandate for a sustainable digital media ecosystem,” Taouss said.
Taouss also has a legal background, which could come in handy. He started in ad tech as a corporate lawyer who represented SiteScout. But Taouss didn’t care for the legal life and made the rare jump from general counsel to business development exec. SiteScout was later acquired by Centro, where he became managing director of the business in Canada.
One of his first priorities in the new role will be to reach out to other standards bodies and to other ad blockers, Taouss said, which should help alleviate the perception that AAC is beholden to eyeo.
But his biggest priority will be to bridge the gap between the AAC’s coalition of users and ad blockers and the broader digital advertising industry.
“A large component will simply be to educate people in the industry so they know what the Acceptable Ads Committee does and that we are structured in a way that there is room for input by all different stakeholders,” Taouss said. “Getting that message out is going to be number one.”