Google and P&G in Coalition to Police Ad Standards Across the Web

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Google executive Sridhar Ramaswamy spoke at the Dmexco conference in Cologne, Germany, on Wednesday.
Google executive Sridhar Ramaswamy spoke at the Dmexco conference in Cologne, Germany, on Wednesday. Credit: Dmexco
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In possibly the broadest attempt yet to fix online advertising so that consumers don't become obsessed with blocking it, Google has got together with a diverse group of marketers, publishers, agencies and industry bodies to create The Coalition for Better Ads. Other participants include top global marketer Procter & Gamble, Unilever, The Washington Post, the 4As agency association, the Association of National Advertisers, the World Federation of Advertisers and GroupM, the world's largest ad buyer.

The goal is to monitor the quality of ads using bespoke technology now in development at the Interactive Advertising Bureau's Tech Lab. Only ads that make it through the filter will be displayed on the websites of participating companies.

In some ways the effort echoes the "Acceptable Ads" program run by Adblock Plus, under which the ad-blocking software lets certain ads through if it deems them unobtrusive and lightweight enough. Controversially, Adblock Plus charges large players in the ecosystem -- such as Google -- to participate.

Under the Coalition for Better Ads plan, ads will be screened and scored according to a set of criteria that are expected to range from load time to creative execution. To help determine standards, the coalition will combine its members' expertise with information from consumers about the kind of online ads that they do and don't consume.

In addition to the Washington Post, publishers and publishing bodies involved include Digital Context Next, the European Publishers Council and the News Media Alliance.

The initiative was announced to coincide with the Dmexco conference in Cologne this week, with the scoring system expected to launch later this year.

Google -- whose senior VP-ads and commercial, Sridhar Ramaswamy, has been speaking at Dmexco -- is taking an increasingly vocal stand against ad blocking. This week the internet giant ended its relationship with ComboTag, the ad buying platform that teamed up with AdBlock Plus to offer an ad exchange that served web ads to ad-blocking customers.

"No industry has ever survived by ignoring consumer needs," said Jason Kint, CEO of Digital Content Next, in a statement. "DCN is looking forward to working with this coalition to address the underlying consumer needs that have accelerated ad blocking adoption."

Ads funds the information, entertainment and services on much of the web, but ad sellers shouldn't abuse consumers, IAB President-CEO Randall Rothenberg said in a statement. "It is essential that industry create standards to assure that consumers get safe, fast, secure delivery of the sites and services they love."

Ad blocking in the U.S. is set to grow 34% this year, taking nearly 70 million users – making up 26.3% of the market – out of the reaches of digital advertising, according to eMarketer. The number of ad blockers in the U.S. is expected to rise to 87 million in 2017.

A global study by PageFair and Adobe showed year on year growth in ad blocking of 41% between the second quarter of 2014 and the second quarter of 2015. The report estimates that around the world $21.8 billion worth of ad revenues were blocked in 2015.