If you’re tired of auto-playing videos with sound, pop-up ads, and other annoying advertising tricks, well, join the club. Google knows how you feel, and is planning to start blocking those by default in both its desktop and mobile versions of Chrome sometime next year. But first, it’s giving publishers a grace period to clean up their acts.
The rumor that Google planned to build an ad-blocker into Chrome first floated in April. Sources confirmed it in June, saying at the time that the tool was more like an “ad filter” designed to block the ads that gave users a bad experience.
To you and me, that means “really annoying things,” like pop-up ads, auto-playing video with sound enabled, and those prestitial full-screen blocks with a countdown timer that you have to wait through before you can read the dang article you came for.
At the time, Google said it would give publishers six months of lead time before the tool went live, with advance notice and tips about how to make their ads not obnoxious. Well, six months apparently starts now: Ad Age reports that roughly 1,000 online publishers are getting notices from Google this week.
Of the 100,000 sites Google says it has reviewed so far, approximately 1% (i.e. 1,000 sites) are in violation. The most common violation by far — 97% of desktop violations and 54% of mobile ones — is pop-up ads, Ad Age says.
What’s in a warning?
Google isn’t explicitly saying what it will and won’t block. Rather, it’s directing publishers to view its Ad Experience Report for their sites, which determines if a site is in compliance with the Better Ads Standards.
Scott Spencer, director of product management at Google, gave advertisers the benefit of the doubt when speaking with Ad Age.
“We are doing this so they have ample time to change their ad experiences so there are no violations or concerns about anything,” Spencer told Ad Age. “We provide the tool that’s just telling people what’s happening on their site and many publishers want to do the right thing, but some might not even know that there are annoying ads on their site.”
Google said it’s testing the biggest websites, basically, where “consumers spend 90% to 95% of their time.” That includes many major publishers, like the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune, as well as more focused news sites like Eurogamer or ZDNet.
Who defines “annoying”?
That standard is developed by the Coalition for Better Ads, a group made up of the world’s largest digital advertisers (including both Google and Facebook, who far and away lead the pack).
It may seem strange for an advertising group to want to curtail advertising, but it makes perfect sense as a defense strategy. If ads are too annoying, users will get a third-party tool and block them all. If ads are neutral, users are more likely to just leave well enough alone and use the web as it’s presented to them.
Thus, setting a standard that blocks the most annoying and intrusive ads means you’re more likely to put up with seeing the less-irritating ads, instead of going to a no-ads experience, and the money can continue to flow.