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‘Everyone has been wary’: Inside the Adblock Plus ‘acceptable ads’ committee

March 17, 2017

By Ross Benes

Earlier this week, Adblock Plus announced the names on the independent committee set to take over the company’s “acceptable ads” program, which sets the criteria that ads must adhere to in order to be whitelisted. Because ABP has been a lightning rod of controversy within the ad industry, committee members said that they are “cautiously optimistic” and that it took a “leap of faith” for them to do business with a company that provides ad blockers to more than 100 million devices globally.

“Everyone has been wary of getting involved, even though it is a olive branch,” said a committee member requesting anonymity.

Here’s an explanation of what we know so far about the committee.

The setup
The committee is split into 11 subgroups, each devoted to a segment of media such as publishing, ad tech and advertisers. Each section is headed by a committee seat. Condé Nast, Rocket Fuel and Dell are some of the larger companies on the list and each one heads a subgroup. This is an odd assortment of a marquee publisher, an ad tech intermediary and an advertiser. Then again, you could view it as a way to represent all views, except of course the consumer.

An ABP spokesperson confirmed that the committee has the ability to alter the criteria for what is considered an acceptable ad, but this is restricted to specific topics such as the ad’s size, format and how it tracks users. For example, ABP currently blocks ads placed in the middle of an article. But because ads at the top and bottom of articles often have poor viewability, this can be a cumbersome restriction for publishers, said Paul Lomax, chief technology officer of ABP committee member Dennis Publishing.

In this case, Dennis can lobby for the rules around ad placement to be changed. And if 75 percent of committee members vote for the change, then it will be enacted across ABP’s products within the following three months, an ABP spokesperson said.

However, for the change to be enacted, it also has to be backed by research that shows the change wouldn’t create a pain for users. If the member who proposed the change is a for-profit company, it has to fund the research itself. But if the member is from a non-profit, like the digital rights group Fight for the Future, then ABP will fund the research.

Power limits
But what members can’t do is change the structure of the whitelist or vote on ABP’s business model, which has been criticized as a payola scheme by industry insiders. The IAB even called ABP’s whitelist “an extortion racket” because tech companies like Google, Amazon and Taboola have paid to have their ads unblocked.

“What is tangible is they are turning over control of the whitelist, and that directly influences what their ad blockers block by default,” said Todd Garland, CEO of BuySellAds, an ad network that’s on the committee. “But we are not corporate governance.”

Details remain fuzzy
The committee will meet at least twice a year; the first meeting …read more

Source:: Digiday