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WATCH ON DEMAND FROM 25 Jan 2021
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Google engineer releases Ad Detector plug-in which distinguishes media editorial articles from sponsored content

AdDetector, a web browser plug in released this week for Chrome and Firefox browsers, is the first app of its kind to inform users when they are not reading editorial content produced by a media company but a paid article produced by advertisers.

The plug-in, which has already been downloaded thousands of times after it was mentioned on the ‘Tonight with John Oliver’ talk show, scans news site metadata for tell-tale markers sponsorship markings, to flag up sometimes deceptively labelled ad content.

Designed by Ian Webster, a product engineer at Google, during his free time, the plug-in places a large red disclaimer at the top of paid-for news stories - even telling users which brand commissioned the article.

The Wall Street Journal yesterday tested the plug-in with news site Buzzfeed where it immediately found that article ‘15 Surprisingly Simple Ways To Increase Your Energy’ was sponsored by cereal brand Cheerios.

AdDetector’s creator said that his design will help increase transparency when it comes to ad content in the media. Unlike other plug-ins like Ad Blocker, AdDetector does not remove ads instead informing browsers of the origins of sponsored content – leaving it up to them whether or not they want to view it.

Webster believes his plug-in will increase the quality of sponsored content by forcing brands to create interesting articles users will want to view.

Webster said: “I wanted to focus on the messaging problem. The readers either know it or they don’t. A lot of bad native ads depend on them not knowing.

“I would rather [publicat­­ions] be upfront about the messaging and leave the user to decide whether the quality matches the standards of the publication that is showing it.”

The Google engineer told Contently: “The recent discussion about sponsored content got me thinking: It seems like nowadays not only would you need AdBlock if you wanted to block display ads, but you would also need an ad detector to know whether what you’re seeing is paid for by outside interests. I realized it would be pretty straightforward to create it. So I went ahead and did it.

“People want to know if somebody’s paying to influence them. I think that’s something that is emotional on the part of people who consume this content. And I think it’s a legitimate concern”.

This comes after video advertising group eBuzzing on Wednesday released a report which said it would cost everyone in the UK £140 annually for an ad-free internet.

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