Adblock Plus Sings Kumbayah With Ad Tech

In January of last year, IAB head Randall Rothenberg issued a scathing speech denouncing Adblock Plus and its Acceptable Ads effort. Calling Adblock Plus “an unethical, immoral, mendacious coven of techie wannabes,” he emphasized that its “so-called Acceptable Ads” program and the Adblock Plus reps were “disingenuous,” and that only two publishing executives had shown up for an Adblock Plus “Camp David” summit meeting with the ad and publishing community in New York.

“Of course, none of this surprises me,” Rothenberg said at the time. “This is what happens when your only motivation, your only metric, is money. For that is what Adblock Plus is: an old-fashioned extortion racket, gussied up in the flowery but false language of contemporary consumerism.”

But what does the IAB have to say now, given that, earlier this month, Adblock Plus parent company eyeo GmbH announced a very robust Acceptable Ads Committee featuring representatives of Dell, Rocket Fuel, Rakuten Global Marketing, Native Ads, Inc., Sharethrough, The Media Trust, Criteo, Bidio, M&C Saatchi Mobile, Saatchi & Saatchi, and publishers Condé Nast, Dennis Publishing, TED Talks and Leaf Group.



IAB’s Rothenberg is not buying that Adblock Plus has gotten the ad tech industry to play along. “The 'Acceptable Ads Extortion Committee' is just another example of Adblock Plus disinformation,” he retorts. “All the companies we've contacted on this list say they are not participating, oppose Adblock Plus' assault on publishers and their journalism, and indicate that junior staff lent their names to this unethical initiative without authorization or understanding.”

This is fascinating stuff. If Ad Block Plus actually is working with these companies, it will have emerged as a permanent fixture of ad tech, like it or not. Given the constant drumbeat about bad ads, perhaps the industry has decided that working with Adblock Plus on a further set of standards for acceptable ads makes sense. Or, if we want to believe Rothenberg, perhaps not.

The IAB and Rothenberg may have wanted Adblock Plus and its German open source minions to go away, but they haven’t. IAB itself estimated that 72 million Americans alone are using ad blockers, with Ad Block Plus in the lead. A full 22% of those under 18 use blockers. You can’t ignore numbers like that. 

We communicated with the ubiquitous Ben Williams, a spokesperson for Adblock Plus. Since the era of cooperation has come into play, Adblock Plus now sounds relentlessly upbeat about the industry, even the IAB. “Adblock Plus is definitely here to stay, but this isn't about ABP,” Williams says. “There are two other ad blockers on board, and we hope that others will soon join in the kind of constructive ad blocking that the Acceptable Ads Committee facilitates. 

“As for the IAB, they are engaging in positive initiatives to improve online ads, like the Coalition for Better Ads and their L.E.A.N. initiative. The Acceptable Ads Committee shares the same mission of improving ads, so it's encouraging that there are multiple ideas for addressing this problem. The unique thing about the Acceptable Ads initiative is its immediate impact on an audience estimated at over 130 million and its commitment to users: the initiative does not try to dissuade people from using ad blockers; rather, it treats them as a second ecosystem by serving them a specialized ad experience and still gives them the option to turn even that specialized experience off (by blocking all the ads). Furthermore, the AAC represents the first time in history that an actual user will sit elbow to elbow with representatives from the online ad industry.”

We like this, IAB calls you an extortion racket, and the response is Adblock Plus calling IAB “positive.” And why not? The AAC will be independent from Adblock Plus from now on. According to MediaPost’s Tobi Elkin, “The AAC said it will take over management of the Acceptable Ads Criteria and the rules for whitelisting that Adblock Plus, Adblock Browser, and Crystal abide by to offer users the ability to block unwanted ads.”

Adblock Plus blogger Bjorn Loesing put it this way, “Acceptable Ads is, for now, the right way to go, the middle ground between compensating content creators for their work and being protected from obnoxious, malicious or just plainly disturbing ads.”

We don’t claim to have major insight as to who is right here, but if you so claim, let us know below.
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