Adblock Plus, the popular web browser extension that lets users block ads on web sites, made the surprising announcement on Tuesday that it’s going to start selling ads itself, with the launch of an ad exchange it is calling the “Acceptable Ads Platform.”
But there’s already been a stumbling block: Adblock Plus implied Google and independent ad tech company AppNexus would supplying the ads within the platform, but neither company says they knew anything about it, and AppNexus has since gone on to suspend the ad tech firm that made the partnership claim.
Why such a shock?
The platform, thanks to a partnership with an ad tech company called ComboTag, is meant to let publishers insert what Adblock Plus deems “acceptable ads,” which its ad blocker won’t block, via what is known in the ad tech community as an SSP (supply-side platform). Meanwhile, demand-side platforms (DSPs) can plug in to allow advertisers to purchase these whitelisted ads through an automated marketplace called an ad exchange.
The biggest surprise in the announcement was that the demand side of the Acceptable Ads Platform would be supplied by two online advertising powerhouses: Google and the independent ad tech firm AppNexus, as reported by The Wall Street Journal. Google and AppNexus would take a cut of the ads they helped sell via the platform, according to the report.
This would have been a big deal because Adblock Plus parent company Eyeo’s business model is controversial, to say the least.
The company charges large entities — including Google — to get their ads whitelisted. That means that as long as their ads meet the Adblock Plus “acceptable ads” standards, their ads will still be served to Adblock Plus users (except those with the most stringent settings). Adblock Plus charges companies a fee of 30% of the additional revenue they earned by having those ads unblocked.
People in the ad community have compared this model to everything from “blackmail” to “extortion” to being like a “Mafia-like advertising network.”
But it turns out that Google and AppNexus never agreed to any sort of partnership with Adblock Plus.
Both AppNexus and Google’s AdX were ComboTag’s sole demand partners, but they’re not participating in the new platform.
In fact, AppNexus served ComboTag and its associated ad network Shefa Media notice of termination on Tuesday, following the Acceptable Ads Platform announcement which implied its apparent involvement. AppNexus told Business Insider it would not have agreed to work with Adblock Plus because it views the Eyeo business model as extortion.
An AppNexus spokesperson sent Business Insider this statement:
“We informed ComboTag this afternoon that they had no authorization to announce such a partnership, and that we are definitively refusing to make Acceptable Ads Platform available on AppNexus.
“AppNexus does not work with companies like Eyeo; we regard their business practices as fundamentally harmful to the ecosystem. Essentially, Eyeo, via its Adblock product, erects toll booths on a public road and siphons off advertising dollars that should be going directly to publishers. We hold that practice in low regard.
“ComboTag issued today’s announcement without our knowledge or authorization. The only AppNexus contact with whom they previewed details of the initiative was a junior support manager who is not authorized to sign off on it. When the story posted today, we promptly informed ComboTag that we would not allow Eyeo on our platform, even through the back door.”
Google seems to have been equally surprised by the Acceptable Ads Platform announcement.
When contacted by Business Insider, Google said: “We review the validity and quality of inventory made available on our platform, but have no knowledge of, or involvement in, ComboTag or Eyeo’s publisher monetization arrangements.”
Where does this leave the Acceptable Ads Platform?
An Adblock Plus spokesman insisted: “The Acceptable Ads Platform will work with the demand infrastructures of Google AdX and AppNexus. We’re looking forward to providing great service to publishers interested in reaching the ad-blocking web on its own terms.”
ComboTag CEO Guy Tytunovich sent Business Insider this statement:
“The Acceptable Ads Platform simply works with the demand infrastructures of Google AdX and AppNexus. Nothing’s changed here. ComboTag has been working with AppNexus and Google AdX for a long time and it’s always been a fruitful relationship.
“We’re looking forward to helping publishers monetize their inventories using our robust platform tools, while at the same time protecting ABP users from intrusive ads.”
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