Google turns Chrome's ad-blocker on: What to expect

Starting Thursday, Google will turn on the ad-block function on its Chrome browsers, which will turn off "bad ads."

This is a move that Google has warned publishers and advertisers would be coming since last June.

Bad ads, according to Google, are ads that have a "failing" status on the company’s Ad Experience report for more than 30 days. These are ads that don’t meet the standards set by the Coalition for Better Ads.

Site owners who have been blocked can submit their pages for review after they’ve fixed the problems, which will start their ads working again.

Google is fairly narrow in its definition of "bad ads," unlike other ad-blockers. 

An analysis by Ad Block Plus estimated that Chrome will block nine out of 55 of the types of ads the CBA has named bad ads. 

"In total, the new CBA-endorsed ad skimmer [the one embedded in Chrome] will only block 16.4% of the ad types listed in its white paper. In comparison, using the Acceptable Ads standard, Adblock Plus (and other ad blockers) block 51 different ad types, or 92.7% of those ads," the company's director of communications Ben Williams wrote in the post.

Ad Block Plus’s test found that Google’s ad blocker stopped ads that were:

  1. Autoplaying inline video ads with sound
  2. Prestitial ads with countdowns
  3. Popup ad with countdown
  4. Pop up ad without countdown
  5. Prestitial large ad with three-second countdown
  6. Prestitial ad with three-second countdown
  7. Autoplaying video ad with sound that’s hard to pause
  8. Sticky 970x250 ad that overlays content on the bottom of the screen
  9. Sticky 580x400 ad that overlays content on the bottom of the screen

The WFA, which is a cofounder of the Coalition for Better Ads welcomed Google's decision to take charge. 

"Opinion polls and industry research tell us that consumers have become increasingly distrustful of the way digital advertising operates. From disruptive ad formats to concerns around data transparency, an increasing number of people have expressed frustration with the online ad experience," said Stephan Loerke, chief executive of the WFA.

Google's move will stop the rise of industry ad-blocking by helping deliver a better experience, he continued. 

"We also call upon other industry partners to embrace the standards," Loerke said. "This is a first significant step in what will be a long-term effort. We are confident that collectively we can make a real difference, and rebuild consumer confidence in the digital ad ecosystem."

Despite some grumbling from media owners about the process, the outcome will be a positive one for the industry – ads which focus on engagement rather than impressions and manipulatable metrics, said Daniel Fisher, European MD of content platform at Playbuzz.

"Google is not trying to harm publishers, or their revenue," he said.

The disruptive ad formats that Chrome will block are "cheap to create, and easy for bad actors to replicate while chasing clicks," said Bill Jennings, chief executive at mobile video platform, Beachfront Media.

Those that have not been prioritizing customer experience will be penalized by Google, and rightfully so, said Daniel Meehan, chief executive and founder of mobile advertising agency, PadSquad.

"In blocking bad ad formats only, Chrome is prioritising consumer experience and forcing the industry to do the same (which should’ve been their motive all along)," he explained.

After all, if consumers have a better experience with online ads, the performance of those ads, and the relationship between consumers, brands, and publishers should improve, said Michael Lehman, VP of supply at native programmatic company at TripleLift.

Google has been working hard to clean up its user experience. In January, it introduced a way for users to mute ads they found annoyingly pervasive. It has also banned entities such as pay-day loan providers and rehab centres from advertising.  

"However, is it Google’s place to act as judge, jury, and executioner?" Fischer queried. "That may not go down well. Perhaps it is time to build a more cooperative and honest dialogue as to what constitutes a good ad so that people don't have to be dragged there."

Inbal Lavi, chief executive of Webpals Group, on the other hand, is confident that Google is in the best position to set industry standards.

"They have an interest in Chrome users having a high-quality experience and wanting to view, click on, and interact with advertisements. Google’s interests are aligned with that of publishers, advertisers, and consumers," said Lavi. "Google is acting as a mediator in order to deliver ads that best fit Chrome users, ultimately benefiting consumers and advertisers alike."

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