More evidence has emerged that Adblock Plus is having an identity crisis after it called on agencies, search engines and cybersecurity specialists to join forces to combat the rise in malvertising – otherwise more consumers will download ad blockers…the very service it offers.
Quite why the company would not want more people to download adblockers is something of a mystery, especially as the most recent wave of the IAB’s Ad Blocking Report showed that the proportion of British adults using the software has now remained at around 22% for the past year.
However, last September’s beta launch of Adblock Plus’ own ad sales platform might provide a clue. The Acceptable Ads Platform charges online publishers commission to replace “unacceptable” ads with ones which have been approved by the company.
The launch sparked claims that the firm was running scared because its original model is no longer working. At the time, IAB UK chief executive Guy Phillipson said: “Adblock Plus, who spent years as the consumer champion squashing adverts, now sell ads! With its original business model running out of steam, Adblock Plus has gone full circle to get into the ad sales business.”
The latest move follows a report from digital threat management firm Risk IQ, which showed that last year total malvertising rose at an unprecedented 132% since 2015. Meanwhile eMarketer reported a 7.2% growth in digital advertising in 2016 to $550.51bn.
Adblock Plus head of operations and communications Ben Williams said: “While it’s positive to see digital ad spend increasing, if rising malvertising is a by-product, then it’s going to be detrimental for both users and the industry.
“The results coming from the Risk IQ report also seem to suggest a delayed response from advertising parties in tackling the issue, especially as the problem extends past websites, and directly onto users. If users are not protected, we’re going to see more people looking for ways to mitigate their security, which will naturally include anti-malware software and adblockers.”
Malvertising has been a growing problem, with third-party ad networks often responsible for embedding attacks in legitimate websites.
Williams reckons that there is real concern among users and if the proper defences are not in place then this will only escalate.
He concluded: “If global ad spend is set to increase then there needs to be a sustainable effort made to keep users safe, but also provide relevant content. At the same time, the worrying surge in malware may serve as the stark call-to-action needed for the industry to come together and adopt new measures to tackle against this security threat.”
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