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Google plans to block pop-ups, auto-play video and prestitial ads: report

Google is planning to build ad-filtering plugins into Chrome browsers across desktop and mobile, the Wall Street Journal reports. According to the Journal, the feature will be turned on by default on browsers and will block pop-ups, auto-playing video ads with sound, prestitial ads with countdown, and other such ads that are defined as unacceptable by the Coalition for Better Ads (CBA), an industry group. The company also plans to block all ads on websites that do not adhere to CBA’s standards, the journal adds. Google will not block ads that adhere to CBA’s advertising standards.

Google on its part has been stepping up efforts to block intrusive ads.  In February 2016, Google, which started blocking ad-blockers from the Play Store earlier, has stopped doing so after revising its policy. The company would now allow ad-blockers that were built for Samsung’s browser to stay online. Samsung recently rolled out ad blocking on its browser for Android devices that would allow third-party developers to build apps for blocking ads.

Note that Google Chrome isn’t the only browser enable ad-blocking. In May last year, browser maker Opera has integrated a native ad blocker into both the stable versions of Opera for computers as well as Opera Mini for Android.

Why is Google doing this?

The company currently owns dominates the advertising ecosystem on the Internet. But it has been facing increasing push backs from ad-blocking software and browsers. Nearly 26% desktops and 16% smartphones employ ad-blocking software globally, according to PageFair. Google pays companies such as AdBlock Plus to display its ads on browsers with AdBlock Plus. Browsers such as the latest Safari for iPhones, UC browser, Samsung Internet, etc. block all ads in mobile browsers. The increasing use of ad-blocking software is a cause of worry for Google. By integrating ad-filtering systems in Chrome, the most used browser in the world, Google will have more control over digital advertising and, more importantly, ad-blocking software market.

What are the Coalition for Better Ads standards?

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CBA identified Initial Better Ads standards in March 2017 following a research on consumer experiences across desktop and mobile. In its findings, CBA identified ads that are most highly correlated with an increased propensity for consumers to adopt ad blockers.

CBA defines unacceptable ads as: pop-up ads, auto-play video ads with sound, prestitial ads with countdown and large sticky ads for desktop; and pop-up ads, prestitial ads, ads with density greater than 30%, flashing animated ads, auto-play video ads with sound, poststitial ads with countdown, full-screen scroll over ads, and large sticky ads, for mobile.

Example of a prestitial counter ad

In its findings, Randall Rothenberg, president and CEO of IAB warns, “We hope these initial standards will be a wake-up call to brands, retailers, agencies, publishers, and their technology suppliers, and that they will retire the ad formats that research proves annoy and abuse consumers. If they don’t, ad blocking will rise, advertising will decline, and the marketplace of ideas and information that supports open societies and liberal economies will slide into oblivion.”

Ad-Blocking in India

Ad-blocking browsers command a majority market share in India, according to PageFair. In fact, PageFair ranks India the second largest ad-blocking country in the world after China. Google’s move will likely spook publishers in India, who turn to advertising for revenue. In June last year, the biggest news websites in India including Times of India, Hindustan Times, the Indian Express, The Hindu, Dainik Bhaskar, Amar Ujala among others began blocking content on browsers enabled with ad blocking software. Their efforts were short-lived as many users quickly found workarounds to access content.

Adblock Plus’s ad platform

In related news, Adblock Plus, the popular online ad blocking software, started an ad platform for publishers which will allow them to choose from a marketplace of pre-whitelisted advertisements that they can drag and drop onto their sites in September 2016. Adblock Plus has teamed up with publisher platform ComboTag to build an Acceptable Ads Platform (AAP).

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