Google moves to sever ties with ComboTag following AdBlock Plus ‘surprise’

Google

Google is in the process of terminating its relationship with ComboTag in the wake of yesterday’s ‘shock announcement’ that AdBlock Plus is to launch its own ad exchange, which it implied that advertising behemoths Google and AppNexus would help facilitate – a move that both parties have denied knowledge of.

Speaking on the sidelines of this week’s Dmexco conference hosted in Cologne, Germany, Sridhar Ramaswamy, Google's senior vice president of ads and commerce, told journalists that the outfit was in the process of severing its ties with ComboTag in a move that would see it removed from the online giant's ad exchange.

AdBlock Plus announced its “holistic ad solution” yesterday (13 September), which is effectively an ad exchange that leverages the buying power of ComboTag, in a move that equally shocked and enraged advertisers.

A key sticking point of this announcement was that Eyeo claimed this launch would be facilitated by ComboTag, which would source inventory from AppNexus’s and Google’s respective ad exchanges – a claim both parties have since moved to distance themselves from (AppNexus has since confirmed it has suspended ComboTag from its exchange).

Ramaswamy told journalists: “We were just as surprised by the announcement as you. We had no knowledge that this was coming up before the announcement, and we certainly have no relationship with [AdBlock Plus owner] Eyeo [in this latest effort].”

He went on to stress that – like AppNexus – Google does not have a relationship with Eyeo. “We don’t want to be in a business relationship with what facilitates what’s going on, and so we are moving to terminate our relationship with ComboTag, which is the intermediatery which Eyeo is working with,” he added.

Ramaswamy went on to highlight the moves Google was taking with the rest of the industry to arrive at a consensus on what constitutes ‘Acceptable Ads’ – the nomenclature AdBlock Plus adopts for its own advertising play.

“We’ve been working with a lot of industry players on this, and in my mind this underscores the need for a better ad standard that the industry stands behind, and then take this to consumers,” he explained.

“We believe that ad blocking usage is driven by a strong disconnect between what the ad industry thinks is an acceptable ad standard, and what consumers find acceptable …. The only way to find it is for the industry to work together.”

Update: An earlier version of this story indicated that WPP had a ownership stake in ComboTag. The company issued a statement saying that "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."

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