Ad Blockers Will Now Be Selling “Acceptable Ads”

Two posts in one week – but I just have to write about this one! AdBlock Plus, a very popular ad blocking technology has just announced that it is going to start selling what it is calling “acceptable ads” that will not be blocked by their technology. Apparently, advertisers will be able to choose from “acceptable ads” and have them run instead of whatever other ads might have run that AdBlock Plus deems unacceptable. Um, okay?!?

This is hilarious to me. Why? Let’s try to follow the logic here (before we get to the heart of it, which of course is money):

  1. People hate ads on internet content.
  2. Ad Blockers are downloaded by people who don’t want to see ads when viewing internet content.
  3. AdBlocker Plus knows that it is only “bad ads” that THEY find too big, too ugly or too intrusive that people don’t want.
  4. AdBlocker Plus makes “good ads” that people would gladly want to still see.
  5. If businesses also pay AdBlocker Plus, they can get in on this action.
  6. Of course, there is no tracking of ad performance of any kind for advertisers, but hey at least some people will see some kind of ad sometimes, so we’re cool, right?
  7. AdBlocker Plus gets monetized and preps for their eventual IPO or acquisition.

You can read a summary of this move at The Verge. Hat tip to @ChristiJOlson for originally sharing the article link!

This should not come as a total shock – AdBlock Plus has been whitelisting certain ads since 2011. Aaron Levy put it rather bluntly today:

He’s not wrong about that…

To me this comes down to a complete failure to understand what their value proposition actually is. They seem to think that acting as an ad filtering mechanism, with the parameters defined by them (and potentially to a certain extent by advertisers) as to what ads are “acceptable” for their customers is their value proposition. It is not. Their current value is to block as many ads as possible for their users, period.  By letting advertising through, and in this case increasing the amount of advertising that can break through the blocker, they are fundamentally misunderstanding why people download their product in the first place.

People do not want some other entity, be it AdBlock Plus or someone else, determining what ads they see and don’t see. You know what they really want? To determine that THEMSELVES. I believe that people would be willing to see ads that they, personally, chose to see. You want to figure out what makes an ad “acceptable” to a person? ASK THEM SPECIFICALLY. Otherwise, this is just another company who is trying to make money off the very people they started out claiming to champion. That rarely ends well for the company…

My favorite quote from the piece (emphasis mine):

“Ad blocking would have happened with or without us,” says Williams. “What we were able to do is try and reverse the spread of 100 percent black-and-white ad blocking, blocking everything … Acceptable ads was a pivot toward what we think is better.

And therein will continually lie the problem – what THEY think is better. If they want to make money of ads being shown to people, then their interests are no longer aligned with the people they promoted the original product to. The company that will really strike gold in this space is the one that can truly give people control back over what they are willing to trade in ad exposure for access to content. This, surely, is not that.

Thoughts? As always, sound off in the comments or hit me up on Twitter (@NeptuneMoon).

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