When Google announced it would launch an ad blocker for its Chrome web browser in a blog post last week, consumers who bemoan the overuse of pop-up ads likely breathed a sigh of relief. However, the marketing world viewed the move more warily, with trepidation to the growing power of Google.
Currently, Google and Facebook dominate the digital advertising industry; the two companies reportedly accounted for 89 percent of all digital ad revenue growth in 2016 according to the IAB. And antitrust experts and media industry leaders are concerned about any move that would give the tech conglomerates even more market power. Google Chrome is already the most-used web browser in the US, with a 44.5% market share.
According to the blog post, Google’s ad blocker will be turned on by default, screening content and flagging advertisements that don’t conform to standards laid out by the industry trade group Coalition for Better Ads. If a website consistently violates these standards though, the filter will then block all ads on that website.
In addition to the ad blocker, Google also announced the introduction of a tool called “Funding Choices” that will allow publishers to ask readers to either disable ad blockers or pay to view content without ads — and Google would get a cut of the payment.
It’s this tool that has those in marketing questioning the approach, as well as, the overwhelming power the ad blocker would give Google.
Here’s how the marketing world responded:
Preethy Vaidyanathan, SVP Product at Tapad
Consumers dislike intrusive advertising, so a filter to weed out the industry’s bad actors is seemingly good in theory. Advertising, however, fuels a free internet. Google’s new ad blocking Chrome extension is a conflict of interest. This is Google’s monolithic attempt to write the rules to ad blocking, while simultaneously circumventing its own policies to ensure publishers (and in turn, Google) still get paid. Google is writing the rules of what an “intrusive” ad means, setting up Google payment platform workarounds; they are both building the walls while collecting admission to view the gardens.
Instead of acting as consumer advocates, with this extension consumers will no longer dictate the rules to content. Consumers will not be able to access certain publisher content without paying. Google’s payment platforms will become the new shepherd to the internet, with the Google Chrome ad blocker creating a gated marketplace.
What marketers can learn from Google’s ad blocker launch is the importance of personalization and creativity in attracting consumers. Brands that solidly understand who their ideal customers are will be able to pivot their advertisements to provide informative, engaging and educational utility.
Udayan Bose, CEO of search marketing company NetElixir
It could mean the rise of in-app advertising. Budgets and focus may shift towards in-app advertisements due to GoogleFilter.
Once the ad block feature will get implemented, the majority of user would not have to go for a third party software to block ads. This will effectively reduce Google’s dependency on software like Adblock Plus, and result in significant revenue growth for Google.
The ad blocker will not make a big impact on AdWords/DoubleClick display ads. In fact, the market share may marginally grow as smaller advertising platforms with borderline ad practice like text link ads, interstitial ads apparently will be thrown under the bus.
While this step is definitely pro-consumer, we believe it also helps Google extend its already substantial influence and control on the industry. There are two important trends that support this step – a) extensive use of ad blockers by millennials and GenZ b) Mobile has displaced desktop as the first screen. Both these trends will only grow in the future and Google wants to increase its influence and reach therein.
Tim Sleath, VP, Product Management at Exponential
On the one hand, I can only applaud the move to fewer, better ads and acknowledge the Coalition for Better Ads are involved in deciding what constitutes a “bad ad”. I will shed no tears for the impact this has on Eyeo’s self-appointed judge, jury, executioner approach. However, I can only lament that the option to go “ad-free” requires users to pay via Google Play…and, therefore, be logged in to transact using Google. We are seeing the friction as the internet develops from something open into a collection of very large walled gardens (walled jungles?), with the open part of the internet increasingly marginalized – and that should give everyone pause.
Rich Sutton, CRO Trusted Media Brands
Since the industry starting buzzing about Google’s solution, I’ve been in favor of it. It’s in everyone’s best interest, including Google’s, to improve the audience experience and eliminate advertising that is unreasonably interruptive. This industry shift allows the ad tech ecosystem to be held accountable for creating experiences that are truly consumer-friendly.
Marketers will be challenged to incorporate more human interaction alongside their technology solutions. They’ll be challenged even more so now to think like a consumer and produce experiences consumers would want to interact with. Most importantly, marketers will be challenged to develop new and innovative campaigns that engage a consumer in an authentic way and run on brand safe platforms.
Google will be the driving force behind all of us to adapt our strategies and ultimately win the loyalty of the consumer.