The Maker of AdBlock Plus’ ‘Acceptable Ads’ Explains the Most Controversial News at Dmexco

Meet the conference's buzziest and most hated company

COLOGNE, Germany—Eyeo GmbH, the maker of the popular ad blocker AdBlock Plus, made headlines this week at the Dmexco conference when it launched its “Accepted Ads” initiative that lets publishers serve pre-vetted ads that are shown to people who have downloaded an ad blocker.

The Cologne, Germany-based company is also exhibiting at the conference and setting up meetings with publishers to talk about how its program works.

“This is our backyard—we’re here in Cologne,” said Ben Williams, director of communications and operations at Eyeo. “I feel like Dmexco is a conference about deals so you can really find people who are interested in doing tangible deals—we just want to get in a lot of conversations at the end of the day.”

The ad-blocker also hired three actors—two wearing masks that were distinguished as “bad ads” and one wearing a monster—to walk around outside of the conference to show attendees how the company’s software “catches” bad ads.

This is the third year that Williams has been to Dmexco, setting up shop next to advertising and tech companies that pitch marketers on new types of targeting and data. So, what’s the strangest encounter that Williams has had at Dmexco?

“I’d say the weirdest interaction would be people coming up to your stand and just yelling at you—that’s happened a couple of times.”

Williams also said that the guidelines for Acceptable Ads have to meet “several very specific criteria,” although he declined to go into much detail.

Broadly, the guidelines cover the size and placement of an ad. It also has to be marked as sponsored. “It can’t disrupt the reading flow, it can’t take up too much room and it has to be labeled correctly,” Williams said.

And in terms of the criticism that AdBlock Plus is pivoting to now sell ads to people who have shown a disdain for advertising by downloading a blocker?

“I wouldn’t call it a pivot—I would call it an extension. We’re not going in a different extension, we’re just extending our white-listing services,” he said.

“For a lot of people, it’s counterintuitive to think about an ad blocker being involved in ad tech, but frankly, I think at a certain point you have to tear up your dictionary and not worry about labels. This is a really big space—who can create value out of it?”