The digital ad industry is a never-ending cat-and-mouse game where consumers install better and better ad blockers while advertising networks continuously fight to circumvent the blockers.
Ad networks like Google’s DoubleClick get paid by brands and agencies to deliver targeted ads to publisher web sites. But the purveyors of ad-blocking software have families to feed, and they need a business model too. Adblock vendors offer to whitelist certain ad networks, for a fee. Eyeo, creator of Adblock Plus, purportedly charges something equivalent to 30% of the network’s ad revenue to let the ads through. Nice.
Advertisers want in on this racket. Google plans to introduce an ad-blocker in its Chrome web browser, and Microsoft may follow suit. The hope is that if browsers preemptively block ads, then consumers will stop installing third-party blockers. At the same time, Microsoft and Google have a way to force more advertisers into their own network, since they’ll obviously whitelist themselves.
Google’s claim is that they’ll only block “unacceptable” ads, but acceptability is a fuzzy idea determined entirely by a closed consortium of ad networks. Adblock Plus also claimed to adhere to acceptability standards, but the company had no qualms whitelisting Taboola – the ad network best known for Three Weird Tricks to Remove Belly Fat. Google might not whitelist Taboola, but its criteria will certainly have something to do with money. Google built the most popular web browser in the world; of course it wants to extract rent from the ads delivered therein.
Consumers have a lot of different reasons for running adblockers, which is why there are many blockers to choose from. Allowing one company to determine which ads make the cut will invariably leave a lot of advertisers screwed. There are a lot of things wrong in the digital media industry, but giving Google greater monopoly control will help none of them.