Google’s Better Ads: Too Little, Too Late?

The Legion of Super Heroes? The Justice League? Whatever you choose to call it, it’s the alliance between Google, Facebook, Unilever, Procter & Gamble and others (they call themselves the “Coalition for Better Ads”). And the Coalition has set itself a task that will need super powers: ridding our digital world of annoying ads.


Working with advertisers, agencies, ad tech companies and publishers, the Coalition aims to produce global digital advertising standards that will reduce consumers’ need for ad blocking.

Ads will be scored based on factors such as load time, format and size and will need to meet minimum standards to be served on publishers’ websites.

According to Stephan Loerke, World Federation of Advertisers CEO, the Coalition has three main goals:

  • Create consumer-based, data-driven standards that companies in the online advertising industry can use to improve the consumer ad experience
  • In conjunction with the IAB Tech Lab, develop and deploy technology to implement these standards
  • Encourage awareness of the standards among consumers and businesses in order to ensure wide uptake and elicit feedback

Why should you care?

Clearly it’s been the alarming uptake of ad blocking software that is behind this belated attempt to improve digital ads. Reports vary as to how many people are using ad blocking software although the IAB reported in July that in the US 26% of desktop users and 15% of mobile consumers have adopted ad blocking software.

Some would argue that ad blocking companies are already doing what the Coalition is attempting to: at least, the ridding the Internet of bad ads part.

But there’s more to this story. Adblock Plus, the largest of the ad blockers with over 500 million users, runs its own “Acceptable Ads Platform” (AAP) for publishers. AAP serves whitelisted ads (those that meet the company’s acceptable ads criteria) to AdBlock Plus users.

Large companies like Google, Microsoft and Amazon have reportedly been paying Adblock Plus to have their ads whitelisted and passed through its ad blocking filter. The Financial Times reported last year that the fee paid by these companies — including Taboola, the clickbait news provider — was equivalent to “30% of the additional ad revenues” they would have made if ads were unblocked”.

Until recently, Adblock’s AAP was somewhat limited. But earlier this month Eyeo, the German company that owns Adblock Plus, announced AAP’s launch, in collaboration with ad tech company ComboTag, as a marketplace now open to all publishers and ad networks.

The irony in an ad blocking company selling ad space should not be lost. Many see Adblock Plus simply as a gatekeeper; one prepared to charge a toll to allow ad publishers to get past its gate.

Immediately after the AAP announcement, Google announced it was cutting ties with ComboTag. And programmatic ad management company AppNexus said it was ending its relationship with Eyeo.

While we get the feeling that there will be many more chapters to this story before we’re done, the best we can all do as advertisers is to create “better” ads.

Better ads are those that consumers can live with, without feeling the need to use ad blocking software. They’re the ads that meet the IAB’s LEAN recommendations, and will be deemed “acceptable” by both the Coalition for Better Ads and Adblock Plus.

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About the Author Jeremy Templer

Jeremy is a Partner and Senior Consultant at SureFire. Jeremy has been working in search since 1996, when he joined the Australian search engine, LookSmart. After relocating to San Francisco, he was instrumental in the development of the company’s paid search ad platform. At analytics company Coremetrics (now owned by IBM) he established an in-house search agency managing campaigns for Coremetrics clients such as Macy’s, Bass Pro and Lands End. At Acxiom he managed members of the pioneering SEO firm Marketleap and worked with clients such as Capital One, American General Finance and Kaiser Health. Joining SureFire in 2009, he is the head of Paid Search Advertising and oversees the delivery of AdWords and other PPC campaigns. He also helps clients make sense of their website data.