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AdBlock Plus announces new ad exchange; Not with our ads, say Google & AppNexus
It remains unclear if the ad blocker's controversial ad exchange will get off the ground.
This week, Adblock Plus threw its hat in the ad tech ring. That is, the ring that makes money from serving, not blocking, digital advertising. Eyeo GmbH, the company behind the ubiquitous ad blocking browser extension, announced on Tuesday it is testing a programmatic ad platform for its Acceptable Ads program.
Just a day later, the experiment appears to have hit a snag. Adblock Plus’s partner for the programmatic piece is ComboTag, a supply side platform that enables publishers to set up private marketplaces for ads from Google’s DoubleClick Ad Exchange and AppNexus. Both companies have said they plan to end their relationships with ComboTag due to its partnership with Adblock Plus.
Sridhar Ramaswamy, SVP of ads and commerce at Google, told reporters at the DMEXCO conference in Germany on Wednesday that Google is “moving to terminate our relationship with ComboTag” because Adblock Plus “erects toll booths on a public road and siphons off advertising dollars that should be going directly to publishers,” AdWeek first reported.
An AppNexus spokesperson said, “AppNexus does not work with companies like Eyeo; we regard their business practices as fundamentally harmful to the ecosystem.”
While it may sound like hypocrisy at its finest for an ad blocker to promote and profit from ads on inventory it blocks, the reality is Adblock Plus has been doing this for five years with Acceptable Ads. While smaller advertisers have ads whilelisted for free, companies like Google (the biggest digital media seller on the planet) and other large media players reportedly pay Adblock Plus to have their ads whitelisted and passed through its ad blocking filter.
What’s new now is the programmatic angle that has entangled the Google and AppNexus exchanges.
Ben Williams, Adblock Plus’ operations and communications director, says the company has never been a proponent of total ad blocking. “We think full-on ad blocking is a bad idea,” he told Marketing Land. “What this does is make the tech side easier for small and mid-sized publishers.”
From Adblock Plus’ perspective, ad blocking was going to happen with or without it. With Acceptable Ads, Williams says, it is helping the ecosystem by: 1. showing users ads they don’t hate 2. giving publishers a chance to monetize ad impressions that would have been blocked.
That argument doesn’t fly with many, and the idea of an ad blocker profiting from serving ads on impressions it blocks has been met with wide criticism.
With the Acceptable Ads exchange, ads deemed “acceptable” are whitelisted programmatically and entered into an auction for impressions that have been otherwise blocked by Adblock Plus. The ads display with a call-to-action to submit feedback about the ads ranging from great to terrible. That feedback then gets fed back to the exchange and incorporated into the bidding algorithm.
So an ad that gets rated terribly presumably will stop showing, but it’s unclear how scalable manual consumer feedback on ads really is.
Williams confirmed the payment structure first reported by The Verge for ads sold on the new exchange: publishers earn 80 percent of ad revenues while 20 percent goes to ad tech parties, including ComboTag, with Adblock Plus getting 6 percent of that ad tech slice.
Whether the new exchange will make it beyond this week if its biggest ad sources pull out remains to be seen.