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Google and AppNexus Back Away From Adblock Plus’s New Ad Platform

Adblock Plus co-founder Till Faida.Adblock Plus co-founder Till Faida.
Adblock Plus co-founder Till Faida.Adblock Plus

Just a day after prominent ad-blocking outfit Adblock Plus announced a service for placing ads on publishers’ web sites, Google and AppNexus—the companies Adblock Plus said would supply the ads—have apparently cut ties with it.

Adblock Plus’s Acceptable Ads Platform is an attempt to make money from publishers that have a lot of readers who use the firm’s ad-blocking software. If the publishers sign up to the platform, Adblock Plus will put “acceptable ads” on their pages that it pulls in from big ad exchanges, and that some Adblock Plus users have agreed to see. These would be ads that don’t pop out, auto-play video or do other annoying things.

The German company promised that, rather than publishers paying it to unblock ads on their sites—Adblock Plus’s existing business model—the publishers would instead get an 80% cut of the revenue for these “acceptable ads” from Google (GOOG) and from AppNexus. Adblock Plus and its ad-tech partner in this venture, ComboTag, would take a cut of the remaining 20%.

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That model has now been dealt a major blow. Google and AppNexus have reportedly both terminated or suspended ComboTag’s accounts from their exchanges, meaning it cannot deliver their ads.

“We had no knowledge that this was coming up before the announcement…We don’t want to be in a business relationship with what facilitates what’s going on, and so we are moving to terminate our relationship with ComboTag,” Google ad chief Sridhar Ramaswamy said, as quoted by The Drum.

According to the Wall Street Journal, AppNexus said it had not been “aware of the companies’ intentions.”

Adblock Plus spokesman Ben Williams denied that this meant the Acceptable Ads Platform had been killed in its infancy. “It’s a completely open platform,” he said, explaining that it was not tied to Google and AppNexus, even though those were the major exchanges Adblock Plus named at its Tuesday launch.

“In fact, we’ve had in the last 24 hours over 1,000 publishers sign up for [the platform],” Williams said. “We’re pretty positive at the moment.”

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Guy Tytunovich, ComboTag’s CEO, went further. He told Fortune that both Google and AppNexus had been fully aware of the Acceptable Ads Platform’s details, and had been fine with it before Tuesday’s announcement.

“Our Google account managers and the internal teams at Google knew. Even the policy team knew,” Tytunovich said. “To see AppNexus panicking like this is nothing short of surprising. These companies have very clear channels of communication and we’ve got account managers and these account managers knew everything.”

Tytunovich claimed that over 50 other ad sources had approached ComboTag and Adblock Plus since the platform’s announcement, meaning there would be a plentiful supply of ads even without Google and AppNexus’s involvement.