Google confirmed in June that the Chrome 64 browser, set for release in January 2018, will ship with a filter that blocks autoplay video with sound by default. Under the new guidelines laid out by Google, autoplay video will only be allowed under specific conditions – for instance, if the video is muted or doesn't include audio, or if the user indicates an interest in the content.

October's Chrome 63 release will give users the choice of disabling autoplay with sound on sites that they choose.

The upcoming ad blocking feature is part of Google's recently announced initiative to adopt the Better Ads Standards released in March by the Coalition for Better Ads, an industry group of which Google is a founding member. The initial Standards are based on a consumer study in which over 25,000 users ranked 104 different types of ad experiences on desktop and mobile.

Google has stated that starting in early 2018, they plan to have Chrome stop showing ads from sites that don't comply with the Better Ads Standards.

Here we'll take a look at possible implications of the Chrome filter, and steps that advertisers and publishers can take to stay compliant and protect ad revenues.

The ad blocking problem

The majority of online publishers rely on advertising revenue to keep content freely available to users. Unfortunately, poor ad experiences cause some users to install third-party ad blockers designed to block out all ads, not just the offending ones.

According to a survey by the Interactive Advertising Bureau, approximately 26% of web users have ad blockers installed on their desktop computers, while about 15% of users have ad blockers installed on mobile.

As online advertisers continue to use aggressive techniques, the percentage of users with ad blockers will only rise, which is bad news all around – for publishers, advertisers, and the free web.

The good news: The results of the consumer study done by the Coalition for Better Ads have determined that "people don't hate all ads, just annoying ones."

So what defines an annoying ad?

According to the Coalition's research, the types of ad experiences that are most correlated with the adoption of ad blockers are:

  • Ads that interrupt, forcing users to wait a certain amount of time to view the content
  • Ads that distract, such as flashing animations and ads that automatically play sound
  • Ads that clutter, such as high-density ads that increase page load times
More specifically, the poor ad experiences identified in the study include, among others, autoplay video ads with sound, pop-ups, and "prestitial" ads with a countdown before users are allowed to view the content.

Google's conquest of all things digital: The saga continues

The prospect of widespread adoption of third-party ad blockers isn't a good thing for Google: According to eMarketer, the company will account for 40.7% of overall digital ad revenues this year.

Significantly, the ad tech giant pays a hefty amount to be whitelisted by Adblock Plus' parent company, Eyeo GmbH.

By implementing its own browser-based ad blocker, Google is offering a better experience to Chrome users and simultaneously hitting back against third-party ad blocking companies that threaten its online advertising empire.

With Chrome holding sway over U.S. browser market share at 44.35%, publishers and ad tech companies will be compelled to adhere to the Coalition's acceptable ad standards or else take a significant hit to ad revenues.

As reported by The Wall Street Journal in June, the Chrome filter will block all ads from sites that contain "a certain number of unacceptable ads."

As a founding member of the Coalition, Google has a hand in determining what those acceptable standards will be.

And that's not all.

Google is also planning to implement a tool for publishers called "Funding Choices." The program will allow approved publishers to display a message to users who have ad blockers installed, requesting them either to enable ads or to pay for an ad-removal pass through Google Contributor, currently in beta. To view ad-free content, users will pay a per-page fee set by the publisher.

While this seems like a good way for approved publishers to gain back revenue lost to ad blockers, some may view it as a long-term ploy by Google to further tighten its control over the digital advertising economy.

As the web undergoes these latest developments, online publishers and advertisers can take several steps to protect ad revenues.

Tips for publishers

Using the new "Ad Experience Reports" tool provided by Google, publishers can diagnose ad experiences that violate the Better Ads Standards. By taking the steps recommended by the tool, publishers can fix any noncompliance issues and avoid having their ads blocked when the Chrome filter goes live in January.

Tips for advertisers

Since autoplay video with sound and other types of intrusive advertising is set to be shunned by browsers in the near future, advertisers that have historically relied on these methods must adapt their strategy.

Google has provided a best practices guide recommending "immersive" forms of advertising that enhance the user experience.

For example, native ads that are responsive and blend seamlessly with site content are seen by Google as providing a better experience, as opposed to large sticky ads, popups, and other types of ads that attempt to hijack a user's attention.

Another important piece of a good ad experience is relevancy, so advertisers should take advantage of targeting options such as geo-targeting to ensure that ads are more closely aligned with their audience's interests.