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Ad blocking panic surfaces at WPP ally AppNexus

The programmatic ad wars have taken an interesting turn with ad blocker Adblock Plus setting up its own ad server, seemingly (at one point) with the connivance of Google and AppNexus, which both have their own whopper servers.

The news was announced by third party ComboTag, yet another ad tech firm.

You might wonder why so many many servers are needed until you figure that, with online advertising heading for a third of the global total – that’s about $180bn worth – there’s plenty of scope for all sorts of companies to take a cut. A miniscule one per trade perhaps but it all adds up.

But ComboTag’s “unauthorised” announcement led to rapid retractions from Google and AppNexus (below).

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AppNexus said: “ComboTag issued today’s announcement without our knowledge or authorization. The only AppNexus contact with whom they previewed details of the initiative was a junior support manager who is not authorized to sign off on it. When the story posted today, we promptly informed ComboTag that we would not allow Eyeo (the Adblock Plus owner) on our platform, even through the back door.

“AppNexus does not work with companies like Eyeo; we regard their business practices as fundamentally harmful to the ecosystem. Essentially, Eyeo, via its Adblock product, erects toll booths on a public road and siphons off advertising dollars that should be going directly to publishers. We hold that practice in low regard.”

So far so good (or bad, depending on your point of view). Interestingly a certain WPP holds a minority investment in AppNexus. WPP rolled much of its own 24/7 Real Media into AppNexus when it increased its investment last year. Clearly the supposed involvement of one of of its key associates in such an ad blocking initiative must have been highly embarrassing for Sir Martin Sorrell’s media behemoth. It is a business based on creating and placing ads after all, not blocking them.

WPP was also reported, including here, to own a stake in ComboTag. WPP says: “An article published in the Wall Street Journal on 13 September 2016, headlined ‘Adblock Plus is Launching an Ad Exchange’ incorrectly stated that ‘WPP has an ownership stake in both AppNexus and ComboTag.’ WPP wishes to make clear that it does not have, and never has had, any ownership stake in ComboTag.”

This is an updated version of an earlier story.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.

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