Acceptable Ads is an initiative of the AdBlock Plus advertising blocker and its operator Eyeo GmbH. The initiative is intended to promote unobtrusive advertising on the one hand, and on the other, constitutes a source of revenue so that the service can remain free of charge for non-commercial users. Commercial users who need to monetize their websites, apps, and other applications can participate in the Acceptable Ads program to deliver their advertisements to users, even when AdBlocker is running. Fees will be charged depending on the reach and size of the service. After the introduction of the Acceptable Ads program, a discussion arose concerning the question of what is considered obtrusive and unobtrusive advertising and how this initiative affects online advertising on the Internet.
AdBlock Plus works with different filter rules to block ads. In addition to blacklisting, which excludes specific resources using URIs, keywords, invalid certificates, as well as digital signatures, the software also uses whitelisting that categorizes certain resources as trustworthy. The Acceptable Ads program builds on whitelisting and selects advertisers and third-party service providers in such a way that their ads are displayed to the user despite a functional advertising blocker. Those who take part in the initiative have privileged access to the 100 million AdBlocker users. However, not all participating companies have to pay fees, only large portals and websites such as Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo and some companies from the media and publishing industry such as Axel Springer or Gruner + Jahr.
The operator of the AdBlock Plus ad blocker received serious criticism for this business model. First, the advertising is blocked, but then financially strong companies can get their ads displayed again. In the industry of online advertising, some companies responded with complaints against the AdBlock Plus software operator, who wants to cover their costs from increasing user numbers with this business model. The current legal dispute also had the effect that many publishers implemented an anti-ad blocker on their websites. Users who use AdBlocker can no longer use those services. The Higher District Court Köln ruled in a not yet legally binding verdict that Eyeo GmbH had a gatekeeper function and violated applicable competition law with whitelisting. However, since there were fundamental questions of law, a revision was admitted at the German Federal Court of Justice.
The AdBlocker allows its users to consume advertising-free content and uses a 10 to 90 rule in monetizing its service. Only 10% of the participating companies have to pay fees. The other 90% can be registered free of charge on the Whitelist. According to the advocates of this business model for accepted advertising, the Internet should be protected as a space for free information and other large portals would pursue similar business practices. The users can disable the Acceptable Ads option if they want to surf entirely without ads.
Anyone wishing to register for the Acceptable Ads program must comply with accepted advertising criteria set by the community in the Acceptable Ads Manifesto and are reviewed by an independent body. Ultimately, it is about providing a user experience without intrusive advertising.
These criteria were created on the basis of a user survey. Only 25% of AdBlock users don’t want any ads to be displayed at all. About 75% of users agree that certain advertising forms get used to monetize websites. Based on this feedback, AdBlock Plus responded with the introduction of accepted advertising, whereby the commercial version of it and an anti-ad-blocking practice are legally controversial.
With the Acceptable Ads program, a discussion about online advertising has been launched, which has an existential significance for advertisers, third-party providers, and content producers. In general, the question is whether any information should be freely accessible on the Internet and how content production can or should be financed by advertising. The Acceptable Ads program is a compromise between the users of ad blockers and the media companies that rely on the delivery of ads. AdBlockers are to an extent exploiting their power on the market in some ways, but this is an already known practice from large portals such as Google, Yahoo, Amazon or Ebay. The more users use a particular service, the greater will be the interest of different stakeholders to get financial gains from it. In part, the discussion about ad blockers is also a struggle about business models on the Internet, which goes beyond the actual interests of its users and they ultimately decide which models will prevail. .