Opinion

Google’s ad blocking changes herald a positive new era for publishers and advertisers

Despite Google's new ad blocker spawning endless think pieces spelling doom for the digital publishing industry, Bonzai's Rupert Pay argues that the changes are actually a good thing.

We all know bad ads slow down websites, annoy users and drive them to install ad blockers that remove all ads. And on February 15 2018, Google will introduce a new ad blocker to Chrome to cut down on spammy or intrusive advertisements.

But what does it really mean for advertisers and publishers?

How did we get here?

The move was instigated by the Coalition for Better Ads, following an inquiry that identified which consumer ad experiences ranked lowest across a range of user experience factors – and that correlated with an increased propensity for consumers to adopt ad blockers.

The research, involving over 25,000 consumers, found certain ad experiences fell beneath a threshold of consumer acceptability on both desktop and mobile devices. As a result, the new ‘Better Ads Standards’ want to strip any ‘annoying or disruptive’ ads like videos that autoplay with sound, pop-up ads that take up part or all of the screen, prestitial ads with ‘countdowns’ and large sticky ads that take up more than 30% of the screen.

This means Google will block any ads that are non-compliant to the new Better Ad Standards on the Chrome browsers. Meanwhile websites can also end up on the ‘blacklist’ at Google’s discretion.

Google will also offer website publishers an Ad Experiences Report that identifies whether or not a publisher’s websites are on the list, and what the potential problems with the publisher’s website are.

The wider impact on publishers and advertisers

Although debate continues that the new adblocker will make Google some sort of ‘ad superpower,’ Google has clarified that only one percent of publishers (so far) aren’t compliant with third-party ad blocking standards, meaning the vast majority of web-publishers will not be impacted by the ad blocker at present.

At the same time, Google has previously announced, the blocker won’t be removing all ads — just ones that are considered bad using standards determined by the Coalition for Better Ads, which bans things like full page ads, ads with autoplaying sound and video, and flashing ads.

I wholeheartedly welcome the multilateral approach that the Coalition for Better Ads is taking to improve the all-round user experience. This initiative in many ways paves the way for ad formats with better ad experiences and less disruptive site visits. But at the same time, we don’t believe that any one tech company, be it Google, Apple or other has the unilateral right to be ‘judge, jury and executioner.’

Ultimately, the primary responsibility resides with the publisher – as it is their audience that is being affected. And in order to be proactive, publishers need to start planning campaigns more mindfully, by avoiding formats that do not adhere to these standards.

At the end of the day, each one of us visits multiple sites, and we’ve all experienced sites that have more advertisements popping out at us than actual content. Keeping a check on this leads to a healthier advertising environment and a much better user experience at the publisher’s site.

Moving forward, I believe a limited blocking tool could have the potential to push publishers to be more innovative and engaging with their ad strategy, enhance overall web user experience and ultimately, limit the spread of wholesale ad blocking, which ultimately benefits everyone.

Critical factors to consider in the era of Google Adblock:

  • Certain sites previously monetising using every ad in the game will need to rethink their strategy and clean up their ad formats portfolio.
  • As a publisher, ensure you maintain a balance between better user experiences and ad monies.
  • Publishers and advertisers need to take compliance seriously, especially publishers as they have more to lose here.
  • If not careful, advertisers might see their top performing formats being blacklisted.
  • Be mindful of grey areas: there are some ad formats that seem to be violating the experience, but not completely.

Rupert Pay is the vice-president of sales for creative technology platform Bonzai.

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