Adblock Plus, if you already didn’t know, is a software that lets internet users block ads on websites (also known as publishers). Ad blockers emerged to address user frustration with irrelevant ads occupying their browsers. Towards the end of 2016, Adblock Plus announced it will begin working with publishers to allow ads through their blocking filters if those ads adhere to their standards criteria. This move is a conflict of interest as Adblock Plus is now starting what they set out to stop.
Is Adblock Plus' conflict of interest worth it for the good of the industry, does it address the root of the problem, or are they profiting from rules already enforced by most current ad networks?
Adblock Plus’ plan to open up selected advertising, will require advertisers and publishers to adhere to Adblock Plus’ “acceptable” ad standards. Publishers will then have to pay a licensing fee to Adblock Plus once a certain impression threshold is reached.
Currently, Adblock Plus does not have a way to automatically detect ads that are not deemed “acceptable”. This means that it will be up to their staff and the users to catch these ads and report them. This is an inefficient solution that only complicates the situation and does not address the underlying issue of why users are dissatisfied with online display ads.
Aside from disruptive pop-ups and bandwidth intensive ads that impact page load times, most users cite ad irrelevance as a key reason for installing ad blocking software. This includes ads that are poorly designed and provide no interest for the users viewing them. Ad’s by their nature are all disruptive, but what separates good ads from bad ads is the ability to reward the user for their disruption by presenting a relevant, compelling, and visually appealing offer.
Adblock Plus’ guidelines scratch the surface of the problem by only focusing on the size and type of ad (i.e pop-up ad, size-heavy ad, flash etc.) but do little to address the bigger issue of what is in the ad itself.
In other words, Adblock plus stands to profit from implementing guidelines that provide no new value and that most ad networks already enforce.
A Step in the Right Direction
The digital advertising industry has been making strides to find their own solution to improve user experience and decrease ad blocking. The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and a growing number of advertisers have come to realize that creative ad personalization is the key to solving this problem. In October of 2016 the IAB put forth the Dynamic Content Ad Standards draft. This draft was open to advertisers, publishers, and users focused on setting universal guidelines for improving the user’s ad experience. However, even before this joint effort was made by the IAB, dynamic creative optimization companies like Adacado spent years focusing on a solution to provide users with ads that matter. By leveraging data like Geo location, time of day / week, audience and viewing history, Adacado enables advertisers to display the most relevant, compelling ads to users.
The root solution to providing quality ads to users won’t be determined by how much of the screen they take up, whether they are video ads, Shockwave or html5 but rather how much value the users find in their content. Adblock Plus is putting themselves in a conflicting position, only to enforce rules that are a staple of most existing ad networks and using those rules as a catalyst to perpetuate their stance to solve a problem they do not know the cause of.