Adblock Plus’ big announcement that it is going to start selling ads with the launch of its first ad exchange didn’t exactly get off to a good start — with Google and AppNexus publicly denouncing the project — but the ad blocking company is insistent it’s still going ahead.
Here’s an update of what’s happened in the past 24 hours:
- On Tuesday morning (EST), Adblock Plus announced the launch of its “Acceptable Ads Platform,” powered by a UK-based ad tech startup called ComboTag.
- Adblock Plus said the platform will contain a supply-side platform (SSP) that allows publishers to insert what it calls “acceptable ads” that are able to be served to its ad blocker users. The platform also comprises an ad exchange, allowing demand-side platforms (DSPs) to plug in to let advertisers purchase those whitelisted ad spots. Adblock Plus said ComboTag would bring its current demand-side partners, Google’s AdX and AppNexus, into the exchange.
- Initially, AppNexus confirmed it worked with ComboTag. Google said it had no knowledge of the arrangement with ComboTag and Adblock Plus’ parent company Eyeo.
- Later that day, AppNexus released a statement saying it had suspended its business relationship with ComboTag and its associated ad network Shefa Media. AppNexus said it would never have agreed to work with Adblock Plus because it thinks the ad blocker’s business model is akin to erecting “toll booths on a public road” and “siphoning off” ad dollars that should be going to publishers. AppNexus said the only person who received details of the initiative was a junior support manager who had no authorization to sign off on it.
- On Wednesday, Google’s senior vice president of ads Sridhar Ramaswamy said the company would also be ending its relationship with ComboTag because it “created this relationship with Eyeo, which is now going from being an ad-blocking company to being a provider of ads — this is not a business that we want to be a part of.”
But despite two of the world’s biggest advertising companies saying they want no part of Adblock Plus’ pivot from ad blocker to ad seller and airing their grievances that they were not properly informed they were going to be linked to it, Adblock Plus says the project is still going full steam ahead.
A spokesperson for Eyeo, Adblock Plus’ parent company referred our inquiries to Guy Tytunovich, ComboTag CEO.
He first addressed the apparent flip-flop from AppNexus, which Tytunovich says was initially on board with the project.
Tytunovich said: “We are surprised and disappointed that AppNexus had this sudden change of heart. However, we’d prefer not to speculate about what happened in the course of yesterday, or who spoke with whom about what, or what conversations may have happened on Twitter.”
Nevertheless, the Acceptable Ads Platform has close to “1,000” publishers signed up to take part so far, he said.
ComboTag and Eyeo are currently exhibiting at the huge digital advertising trade show Dmexco in Cologne to show off the platform. Tytunovich said the booth is “flooded with appointments and walk-up interest.”
We asked for Tytunovich’s reaction to Google terminating its relationship with ComboTag.
He responded: “Google — on our end nothing’s changed. We work with countless of different partners on the demand side. It’s an open platform after all. Considering the fact that all we’re doing is helping the publishers improve their UX [user experience], and providing them with a way to reduce user churn and improve their yield, I don’t see a reason of why anyone would be uncomfortable with it.”
To that end, Tytunovich claimed more than 50 demand sources — advertisers, agencies, and agency trading desks — have approached ComboTag since Tuesday to take part in the Acceptable Ads Platform.
The Acceptable Ads Platform has yet to launch out of beta yet, so it’s unclear how users will react. However, the majority of the 64 comments in response to Adblock Plus’ blog post announcement were critical of the initiative.
“You disgust me. UNINSTALLED,” wrote “Matt.” Another user, “Marcus,” wrote: “Sellouts. That you legitimise it with that most users can’t find the non-intrusive ads button in your settings is just sad. Uninstalling.”
“Bernice” said: “This is an absolute BETRAYAL of your users. I will be uninstalling your app after having used it for many many years.”
It’s only been one day and it’s already been exceptionally messy, but the Adblock Plus Acceptable Ads Platform saga looks like it’s nowhere near over yet.
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