Google, AOL and Yahoo hit back at Shine’s claim that they abuse customers with ‘military grade tracking’

Israeli ad blocker Shine CMO Roi Carthy sent a dramatic message to the ad tech industry today, accusing them of “abusing” consumers by using “military grade tracking”.

The business, hot on the heels of its announcement that it is partnering with Hutchison Whompoa’s Three to launch an opt-in operator-level ad blocking service, spoke alongside Google, Yahoo, AOL and Nestle to debate one of the industry’s most pertinent issues.

The publishers on the panel defended themselves and argued that, while a lot of mobile advertising wasn’t up to standard for users, blocking at an operator was penalising the publishers that are trying to create a better experience.

Carthy, said: “I’m yet to be proved that there is non-abusive ad tech. Not every publisher is a bad publisher, true, but every individual is being abused by ad tech and that's not selective. They are using military grade tracking. There are smart people at these companies developing it and consumers don't have the ability to protect themselves.”

Responding to the criticism that Shine’s approach to ad blocking isn’t nuanced enough, he said: “There needs to be more nuance but where the conversation is right now, it’s not about nuance, it’s about sending a clear signal.”

Google managing director of media and platforms, Benjamin Faes, vocalised concern for the revenues of publishers. A view unsurprisingly shared by fellow panelists and publishers; Yahoo vice president and general manager for advertising Nick Hugh and AOL's chief marketing officer Allie Kline.

“Everyday Google blocks two million pieces of creative, because they carry malware or are not appropriate. As an industry we need to improve the ad ecosystem but I am clearly worried by blunt solutions that are not rewarding even the good publishers. You can be very reasonable and still don't get the benefit from ad blocking theory,” said Faes.

As well as Three’s recent move into this space, many of the panelists discussed the move by Caribbean telco Digicel which has introduced an ad blocker on an opt-out basis.

James Hilton, founder of M&C Saatchi Mobile, asked what the motive were behind the operators moving to block ads.

“Are they consumer centric? Partially. They are also struggling to deal with bandwidth and ads take up huge bandwidth; they will do anything to reduce it.”

Shine said that Digicel hasn’t yet had anyone opt-out of the service and that the telco hasn’t had any complaints to its call center about not having ads. Google’s Faes said that, with Digicel having a 40 per cent market share in the area, the fate of publishers was now worrying.

Pete Blackshaw, vice president of digital and social media at Nestle, agreed with the panel that mobile advertising needed to be improved, adding that newer formats were starting to create a better value exchange. However, he said that in order to solve this growing issue, marketers had to solve their very own industry-wide communications conundrum.

“Transparency is definitely hard. It is time for the heart and soul of the creative community step up the game of how we communicate the value exchange. Mobile raises the stakes for radical simplicity. We can reset the communications format on complicated issues and the industry needs to treat this debate as a way to reset the conversation,” he said.

Charlotte McEleny

I'm The Drum's Asia Editor, charged with finding all the interesting industry news and insights from the Asia Pacific region.

When I'm not writing about this diverse and innovative region, I can be found eating Singapore's incredible food.

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