Clean Ads IO: Catching Up With Ad Blockers And The Blockers That Block Them

The dander was up at AdExchanger’s Clean Ads IO in New York on Tuesday as the CEOs of two ad blockers engaged in a contentious debate with two prominent adversaries about the rock-and-hard-place situation publishers presently find themselves in.

“It might be ironic that an ad blocker can really play a very important role in creating a more sustainable approach,” said Til Faida, CEO of Adblock Plus creator Eyeo. “We help publishers show alternative, less intrusive ads to people who opt out of traditional online ads to create a new ecosystem in which there are fewer but better ads.”

Of course, one man’s sustainable approach is another man’s shakedown.

Paying Eyeo to show their ads is far from a publisher’s ideal scenario, said Ben Barokas, CEO of Sourcepoint, which sells technology to help publishers unblock ads and engage consumers in a discussion about how, not if, they want to pay, whether that be through looking at ads or subscribing.

“I think it’s blackmail,” Barokas said. “Speak to any publisher in this room and they would agree they are not willing to pay or would only pay under duress.”

Google, for one, is known to pay millions of dollars a year to be on Eyeo’s whitelist. Scott Spencer, director of product management for Google’s sustainable advertising unit, got pretty touchy when he was asked if Google “underwrites” the Acceptable Ads program.

“We don’t underwrite anything,” Spencer said tersely. “Our search ads are acceptable according to the standard, and Eyeo’s business model requires payments.”

Spencer added, “The content needs to be paid for. … If everyone is using an ad blocker, we have a problem.”

By the end of the year, Eyeo plans to hand the Acceptable Ads program over to an independent review board to decide which ads are deemed worthy of passing through the filter. A big criticism of the program in the past was its lack of transparency.

Adblock Plus is also in the midst of launching a service called Flattr Plus that will allow users to make automatic micropayments in exchange for the content they consume.

Some of that money goes to Crystal, an iOS 9 content-blocking app that receives a monthly payment from Eyeo to allow acceptable ads to appear on mobile sites visited by its users.

There’s a logic behind it, said Crystal creator Dean Murphy, who ran a survey of his users in September to figure out why they installed an ad blocker in the first place. Sixty-four percent cited visual clutter and slow load times.

But the majority of users – 71% – said they didn’t mind seeing all ads, just the “worst ads,” and that they would whitelist sites that optimize for performance.

“Acceptable Ads seems to be one of the only initiatives at the moment for users actively blocking ads,” Murphy said. “[It’s] ad blockers helping publishers monetize while giving users what they want, which is a better experience.”

Indeed, everyone seems to agree on that point. A small cohort of people never want to see ads ever under any circumstances, but most people are just seeking a better experience.

They want an experience that isn’t “so horrifying, so upsetting and so distressing to the average human being that, given half a chance and given the availability of the software,” they opt to block, said Randall Rothenberg, CEO of Interactive Advertising Bureau.

But something’s gotta give.

“I don’t think that having a frustrating ad experience makes sense, but I also don’t think everyone should have to pay to have their ads seen when they are OK,” Spencer said.

Which leads to the question: What is Google going to do about it? Google is certainly hatching some sort of plan – perhaps an Acceptable Ads-like program of its own – but details haven’t been released.

What is clear, though, is that “really annoying ad experiences should not exist,” Spencer said. “The question is, what do you do with good acting publishers and advertisers? That’s where the challenge lies.”

Here’s the full video:

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  1. A Day

    Speaking for rural customers who are essentially discriminated against by the low cost, high speed Internet servers such as AT&T, Time-Warner Cable which won’t even provide us service, we are forced to use excessively expensive, metered bandwidth satellite or mobile phone data or return to 24 kbps speeds (if they’re even still available). Eliminate thed video/sound ads and stop flashing obnoxiously and I (we) won’t mind so much. Just as we can’t pass a billboard on the road without seeing it, we’ll see your static advertisement. Ad blockers attempt to provide less bandwidth hungry and obnoxious ads. So what’s the problem? Adjust the ads and we won’t need to stop them anymore. Pretty simple solution. Why do you think we moved to HBO, Cinemax and other commercial free channels? We are inundated. It’s way worse than SPAM! Must we make a law against so many ads/page and auto-playing videos or are you willing to control yourselves?

  2. I know when a contract can be enforced and cannot be enforced. In reference to ad-blockers, the end user has the determining right if they want ads or not, it is their system. Additionally, Eyeo who makes Ad Block Plus was in court again and won as expected . Excerpt “ The judge said it is perfectly legal for people to install ad-blockers in their browsers as publishers have no contracts with their readers that insist they have to look at the ads.” And this is 100% accurate – if a contract does not exist between the site and the user the no ads can be enforced or pushed without consent. Full article here:

    Additionally, The ‘implied contract’ theory that we’ve agreed to view ads in exchange for free content is void because we can’t review the terms first — as soon as we follow a link, our browsers load, execute, transfer, and track everything embedded by the publisher. Our data, battery life, time, and privacy are taken by a blank check with no recourse.” Every time you visit a website with an ad, it’s an implied contract, but since you cannot view all the terms it’s void and cannot be enforced. However under contract law, the only valid contracts are those signed in ink and both parties. Something you cannot do online, and these “bluff statements” like “by continuing to use this site you agree or our terms and conditions” are not legal either.