Google Chrome to Ride Shotgun on Unacceptable Ads

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Google Chrome to Ride Shotgun on Unacceptable Ads
Google Chrome to Ride Shotgun on Unacceptable Ads

How offensive or annoying is that? That's a real question for those in the business of assessing what types of ads viewers might consider beyond the pale: Especially now, when ads that don't make the cut may be blocked before any human sees them.

Ad blocking software is what many people rely on to stop annoying popups and noisy videos that play online when they want to watch or read something. However, those extensions required downloads and sometimes fail. They could prove far more effective if they are integral to the browser. Google has plans to do just that in Chrome, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

The standards Google would apply would be based on the research of the Coalition for Better Ads. Its Initial Better Ads Standards drew on over 25,000 consumer ratings of digital ad experiences in North America and Europe, this past March. 

Marketers who ignore the standards, thinking that it will only affect some of their ads, may suffer unanticipated consequences. According to the Journal, Chrome may keep out “all advertising that appears on sites with offending ads, instead of the individual offending ads themselves." Like the one bad apple, one bad ad can spoil the entire marketing barrel, which is a very high price to pay for poor judgement.

What do marketers think about Google getting into the ad monitoring act? Some admit that ads can be very intrusive, and they serve neither the marketer nor the viewer when they create bad experiences. If marketers don't reign themselves in, then someone else should do it for them.  

That's the view of Rich Sutton, CRO at Trusted Media Brands. He says: "It's in everyone's best interest, including Google's, to improve the audience experience and eliminate advertising that is unreasonably interruptive. With such a large portion of Google's revenue reliant on advertising, it makes sense the company would want more control of ad blocking options. It may be that Google is taking preemptive steps to help solve a problem that no one in the industry benefits from - a poor, intrusive advertising experience on the web."

Sutton accepts that it makes sense for Google to be involved because it benefits from ad revenue directly. It also pays fees to Eyeo, the brand behind AdBlock Plus, to keep its ads unblocked. Tim Sleath, VP, product management at Exponential, points out: “Given they already pay into Eyeo's ‘acceptable ads program,' disintermediating that player and controlling the user experience makes sense." He also believes the ad guidelines will result in a better experience that ultimately, would benefit all involved (with the exception of Eyeo, of course).

However, Sleath also points to a potential pitfall: “Google's big problem is making itself the judge and jury (and yes, potentially executioner) for this – it's definitely on the EU's competitiveness radar. Google will have to be scrupulous about only applying the CBA's rules completely impartially.”

Along the same lines, Kate O'Loughlin, SVP of media at Tapad raises the “walled gardens” issue that she expects would be exacerbated by allowing “Google to close the ecosystem under its opaque control.” The potential to fall into the “nefarious pay-to-play model” that ad blockers apply to let only certain ads through could end up corrupting the objectivity the standards supposedly stand for. 

O'Loughlin is not completely pessimistic about it. She does see it forcing marketers to make necessary adjustments, “to create better ads that engage with consumers in more authentic, non-intrusive ways.” More effective ads are the result that Brian Baumgart, CEO and co-founder of Conversion Logic  anticipates as the Coalition for Better Ads extends its rearch to “provide a deeper understanding of” what appeals to customers. That discovery “could provide insights for marketers' to achieve 1:1 marketing,” he says.

Just about all of us would agree that annoying ads don't do anyone any good. But the question is whether or not we will trust Google to censor them out for us. That's something that not everyone would likely agree on.

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