By Joe Brodar
In April of this year, the Wall Street Journal published a report that has caught the notice of consumers, developers, and advertisers alike.
Confirmed by Google a few weeks after the initial report, Google Chrome—now the most popular web browser—will be adding a built-in ad blocker in a future release. This ad blocker will attempt to ease user frustration and improve the average user’s online experience.
Ad blocking has become a major issue for advertisers and the companies that serve those ads, with more and more internet users taking on intrusive ads with third-party ad blockers. With this feature built into the browser by default, it will curb the use of third-party blockers and ultimately allow Google to boost its own advertising network above other networks and ad hoc advertisement.
So what are they going to block?
Google worked with the Coalition for Better Ads (CBA) to define which types of advertisement are acceptable and which are detrimental to the users. The full list of standards that the CBA has laid out can be found here, but the main tenets of ads that are considered to be “bad” include pop ups, covering a large portion or entirety of the screen, forcing users to wait before accessing the site’s content, and auto-playing videos with sound.
This feature is still very early in development, so it is unclear exactly what types of elements this tool will block. We can be almost certain that it will take issue with the full screen, timed ad that forbes.com presents users with before they can access the site; that is explicitly against the CBA’s better ads standards.
What is a bit more of a gray area, however, are things like the Pinterest registration overlay, which covers the bottom third of the screen at first, and moves to cover the entire screen as you scroll down. Although this is not technically an advertisement, it fails to pass muster with the CBA standards, and could potentially be a target of Chrome’s ad blocker.
Also in the gray area are videos that autoplay, but are not advertisements. Often, news websites will have videos of news reports that begin playing upon page load which can annoy users. Because these are not technically advertisements, it is unclear whether or not these elements will be caught by the ad blocker, or if they will be considered “okay” and allowed to pass the block.
Apple Follows Suit
In June of this year, Apple announced that they would also be adding built-in ad blocking to its own browser, Safari. They are beginning with a more narrow scope, instead of implementing all of the CBA’s standards. The next main version update to Safari will include default features to block autoplay videos with sound and to stop advertisers from tracking where you go online.
While Safari captures much less of the Internet browsing market, they can afford to be more restrictive on advertising, as they do not command as large of an advertising network as Google, and do not have as much to lose by blocking more ads.
Will this affect my advertising?
The most likely answer is no, it will not. If you are running advertisements through the Google AdWords platform, we anticipate that you will see no immediate changes. If you are running ads on the display network—that is, running visual ads that show up on sites and applications other than google.com— there could be some effects in the long-term.
While Google will most likely refrain from blocking content served through its own advertising network, it is a possibility that your ads could stop showing up on certain websites. If a webmaster has implemented advertising in a way that is against the CBA standards, it could potentially not display on that particular site.
More likely than not, however, your display ads will see a gradual uptick in impressions and clicks, as other, more intrusive ads are removed. Once other ads are being blocked from ever appearing to users, the competitiveness of the remaining slots on the Google advertising network will rise and become more expensive for advertisers, as more people will be vying for fewer advertising placements.