Adblock Plus, the popular ad blocking tool owned by German company Eyeo, is making a surprising entry into the world of ad tech.
On Tuesday, the company announced it is launching a supply-side platform (SSP) that will allow publishers to insert what it deems “acceptable ads,” which won’t be blocked by Adblock Plus (unless users apply the strictest settings) on their sites.
Eyeo has partnered with under-the-radar UK-based ad tech startup ComboTag to launch what it is calling the “Acceptable Ads Platform,” which is set to launch at some point this fall.
The platform will act as a marketplace of pre-approved ads that publishers can drag and drop into place on their websites in positions deemed appropriate by Adblock Plus’ pre-existing acceptable ads initiative — such as banners at the top or placements on the right-side of the page.
Publishers wanting to use the Acceptable Ads Platform need to integrate a tag onto their page to start using it. Meanwhile, the platform also serves as a kind of ad exchange, allowing demand-side platforms (DSPs) to plug in to let advertisers purchase whitelisted ad spots on participating publishers’ websites.
In a press release, Eyeo CEO and Adblock Plus cofounder Till Faida, says: “There are two ecosystems of online consumers out there right now: the one composed of people who block intrusive ads and the other where people do not. The Acceptable Ads Platform lets publishers reach the former group without changing anything about how they’re reaching the latter. We’ve been waiting years for the ad tech industry to do something consumer-friendly like this, so finally we got tired of waiting and decided to just do it ourselves.”
The ad tech community is likely to look on the Acceptable Ads Platform launch with a degree of cynicism.
Adblock Plus makes money by charging large companies — including Google, Amazon, Criteo, and Taboola — a fee to get their ads whitelisted. The cost is 30% of the additional revenue created by having those ads unblocked. Only around 10% of the companies taking part in the Acceptable Ads initiative are required to pay.
Critics — many of those advertising executives — have compared this model to everything from “blackmail” to “extortion” to being like a “Mafia-like advertising network.” And whether or not they agree with the way Adblock Plus generates its revenue, the steady increase in ad blocker usage is a direct threat to the ad-funded online media business model.
Over the past year, Adblock Plus has attempted to make amends with the advertising and publishing community by inviting them to participate in Acceptable Ads initiative. Adblock Plus plans to form a non-profit committee — made up of stakeholders ranging from ad tech companies, publishers, journalists, academics, and consumer champions — that will act as an independent review board for the program.
Progress on that front so far has been somewhat slow. Adblock Plus has not provided an update since its London “Camp David” peace talks meeting in February. However, the company is exhibiting at the huge digital marketing trade expo Dmexco in Cologne, Germany this week, so it is likely to be meeting with some stakeholders there.
The Acceptable Ads Platform isn’t Adblock Plus’ first meander away from simply providing ad blocking tools. In May, the company announced it was partnering with donation startup Flattr, which was created by the founder of The Pirate Bay, to launch a service that lets users pay the online publishers and content creators they visit the most. The product is not currently available outside of a closed beta.
Adblock Plus’ pivot into ad tech comes two months after Israel-based ad blocking company Shine announced its plans to launch an ad verification platform, which it plans to roll out in October.
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