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IAB vs Adblock Plus: The Backstory Behind The Latest Feud

IAB vs Adblock Plus: The Backstory Behind The Latest Feud

Much like Adblock Plus would prevent an “intrusive” display ad from being served to a web user, the Interactive Advertising Bureau has denied a representative of the company from attending its annual gathering.

A blog post from Ben Williams, Ops manager at Adblock Plus owner Eyeo, highlights an unrequested refund of a ticket purchased by his colleague, Mark Addison, for the IAB Annual Leadership Meeting, taking place between January 24 - 26 in California.

A response to the firm apologises for “any confusion” whilst making clear “there will be no ticket available” for an Adblock Plus representative to attend a meeting that even non-IAB members can register for at the price of $3,695.

This makes for an extremely interesting update in the ongoing saga between the IAB and Adblock Plus. Only last September, Williams himself declared that his conversations with the Internet Advertising Bureau in Europe had been “constructive” and ones in which both parties had learned things about each other. 

IAB Europe is under no obligation to share the same stance as the Interactive Advertising Bureau in America, which previously described ad blocking as “robbery” but pivoted ever so slightly last year by admitting them to be a product of mistakes from the industry.

A clash of beliefs  

Adblock Plus’s own stance on the serving of ads leans in favour of inventory that is considered “non-intrusive” for the browser. This effectively means that many of forms of basic display advertising - like pop-ups and banners - are blocked by its very own browser, while many forms of ‘native’ ads are served as normal.

The IAB UK, whose members include advertisers that are unable to get certain ads seen by users of Adblock Plus, has been very outspoken in presenting ways of getting around the challenge posed by ad-blocking software.

The group’s senior programmes manager, Claire O’Brien took to PerformanceIN last year during our ‘Ad-Blocker Week’ to criticise some of the “interruptive, annoying, creepy” adverts currently being fired around the web. O’Brien went on to voice her support for retargeting that could be “much more audience-friendly” if it focused on being more relevant.

However, the IAB in the US is taking the Bureau-wide supporting of an “ad-funded web” to new heights by ensuring that parties who work very much against these beliefs aren’t welcome at its gatherings.

A screenshot from Adblock Plus’s conversations with the organisation stresses the lengths the IAB is going to in order to stamp out one of its key concerns.

Williams adds that Adblock Plus attended the same meeting last year and even made it through to being listed as a participant for 2016. 

His post eschews the idea that “dis-inviting” Adblock Plus from the party will “make the problem go away”, and that his attempts to make contact with IAB CEO Randall Rothenberg had been unfruitful.

The other side

Adblock Plus is no stranger to controversy itself, though, having allowed the likes of Criteo to serve ads to its users on the condition that they pay for the privilege.

The tool conforms to a “whitelist” which allows inventory from certain ad servers to pass through by default. Current whitelist members include Criteo - a major player in the retargeting space - along with Microsoft, Google and content recommendation platform Taboola. 

For the IAB, perhaps its biggest gripe with Adblock Plus is simply down to how far the tool has come in such a short space of time. It’s reported that some 400 million people have downloaded software from Eyeo which enables them to block ads across the web.

The tool’s biggest market is Europe, although after seeing its usage in the US grow to 15 million in November 2015 from 13.2 million a month before, the IAB may be looking to thwart its growth and recognition by any means necessary.

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Got a question or comment – tweet Richard @RichToweyPI or comment on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIN.

Richard Towey

Richard Towey

Richard serves as head of content at PerformanceIN. After many years spent covering developments from the automotive, sports, travel and finance sectors, he eventually turned his full attention to reporting on stories from the fast-evolving world of digital marketing. Richard now heads up the editorial team at PerformanceIN: the performance marketing industry's leading publication.  

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