‘It’s ugly’: Publishers offer scathing assessments of AdBlock Plus ad exchange idea

Ad blocking company AdBlock Plus caused waves this week, announcing plans to start selling ads itself through an ad exchange — only to have announced partners Google and AppNexus declare they want no part of it.

The news was timed to coincide with Dmexco, the biggest global ad tech event in Cologne, where the media world comes together each fall. AdBlock Plus partner ComboTag said in a statement it was “surprised and disappointed” that AppNexus had distanced itself from the project — and claimed 1,000 (unnamed) publishers had already signed up. But publishers in Cologne threw cold water on the idea that AdBlock Plus could pull off the scheme. In fact, a half dozen big publishers Digiday spoke to, none offered positive comments, with assessments ranging from disbelief to outrage.

Oliver von Wersch, Gruner + Jahr managing director of growth projects and strategic partnerships said: “AppNexus and Google have denied involvement. It’s probably just a PR gag, but it’s the wrong story for them to be telling. They are acting as an ad network. They want to set the rules and the the gatekeepers, but this late move is possibly criminal. They want to sell inventory they don’t own.”

Business Insider managing director Julian Childs doubts the exchange will manage to get real traction. “I’d be shocked if they saw any traction in getting quality inventory supply into their exchange. I imagine those conversations will be met with short answers from publishers,” he said.

AdBlock Plus representatives referred questions to Combotag.

The fact that APB has positioned itself as protecting users from ads, only to then say it’s going to allow ads it deems acceptable to those who pay for it, has caused real shock. “Amazing how the goalposts keep changing for their users, whilst publishers are indiscriminately targeted. It turns out Adblock Plus actually want to serve you more ads not less. True colors revealed,” added Childs.

Randall Rothenberg, CEO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau and a vocal foe of AdBlock Plus, couldn’t resist some skewering of its own.

Cieran O’Kane, founder of ad tech specialist company ExchangeWire, said: “Even the most brazen ad network wouldn’t ever do this kind of thing.”

New York Times International’s global digital business director Meagan Lopez, said the business model of the new proposal is strange, and not ethically sound for anyone involved.

“They’re allowing users to block ads, and then on the other side basically taking a cut from publishers to allow ads to run on the site even though they are the ones blocking the ads. It will be interesting to hear how much of a cut all three parties are taking, and how they are actually in the mix,” she said.

Financial Times chief commercial officer Jon Slade, said that the idea of putting ads in front of people who explicitly say they don’t want them, isn’t at all enticing for marketers. “And that’s to say nothing of the rather curious set of mixed priorities that are apparently contained within the supporting ecosystem. I would say this does nothing — the reverse, in fact — to help with the industry-wide issue of ad-blocking. It’s ugly,” he added.

Not to be outdone, brand marketers are also unimpressed by the announcement.  Gerhard Louw, Deutsche Telekom’s head of media called the move “stupid,” and said that the industry shouldn’t rely on technology to solve the problem of ad blocking. “We take ad blocking very seriously, it’s a major problem but this is not the way to solve it. We shouldn’t use technology to solve what is a consumer problem, but get the bottom of why users block them in the first pale: are they boring, or too many of them. That is how we will solve it,” he added.


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