Helping Google and its network of publishers address the rapid global rise of ad blocking--by first improving the ad experience.

From late 2015 to spring of 2016, I joined the New York-based Contributor product team, working from Google headquarters in Mountain View. Over time my scope expanded to advertising programs at Google to rebalance consumer experiences with ads so they can continue to fund publishers and and important work they do.

Contributor is an ad removal service that significantly reduces display ads across Google's networks while compensating publishers and people who create free content. Instead of seeing ads, consumers see either a negative space, a patterned image, or even cat photos with a message thanking users for helping to fund the content they're enjoying.

Alternative revenue models are gaining in importance as global ad blocker installations rise sharply. For publishers and people who earn their living by creating content, ad blocking represents a significant challenge. And the story is still developing.

As such, I became involved in broader efforts to respond to ad blocking in a way that reduces annoyance for users while helping publishers keep their content free for everyone to enjoy. I'll update this case study periodically as industry involvement grows. In the meantime, you may see Google executives make announcements about work and perspectives I had a hand in shaping.

LAST UPDATED (June 2017):

  • August 2016: Google announced that an irritating ad format will cause pages to rank lower in mobile search, signalling intent to discourage ads that annoy consumers, work against companies that advertise, and harm the ads/publisher ecosystem.
  • In September 2016, ad industry bodies announced the formation of The Coalition for Better Ads, a data-driven standards body. Perhaps the most important aspect is the detailed research into which discrete characteristics of ad units specifically cause irritation with consumers, and may subsequently cause them to install an ad blocker. This is a user-centric, data-driven approach to preserving the revenue funding content and services for consumers to enjoy, free of charge.
  • In early 2017, reports surfaced that ad-block software downloads slowed in consecutive quarters, including in the EU where ad blocking is quite popular. 
  • Similarly, in early 2017, Google released its bad ads report, reporting that it had removed impressions from a variety of questionable sites, including banning 200 fake news site publishers relying on Google ad network revenue.
  • In March 2017, the Coalition for Better Ads released user research and new ad standards for the industry to follow.
  • In April 2017, Google considers excluding non-compliant, irritating ads for users of Chrome through a native ad blocker. 
  • June 1, 2017, Google launches the Funding Choices Program for publishers. I led the naming effort for this product with the Sustainable Advertising team and Google's Brand Studio. Funding Choices allows publishers to display a message to ad-blocking consumers that explains how content may be compensated: either by turning off ad-blocking for the site or funding use of the site through Contributor.

Working at Google is always fun...and I was thrilled to be involved in product marketing, communications, legal, regulatory, commercialization, international public policy, revenue modeling, design sprints, messaging research, product advisory, and naming. I love working with people who care about putting the needs of users above all else. 

And I got to visit the labs of three major European cities in just a few days. (My sightseeing was largely limited to cups of amazing European coffees as I worked). Pictured below: research lab stairwells in London, Paris, and Berlin...and a gratuitous Instagram photo of a delicious Paris Opera crema.

Past work with Google: Analytics social ROI features

In June of 2011, Google acquired a social analytics company, whose technology and team were absorbed into the Google Analytics product team and roadmap. That fall, I was invited by their lead user experience designer and product marketing manager to offer perspective on how enterprise Web analytics users thought about and discussed social media.

The team felt that their new features offered a great way to begin a broad discussion about what really matters to a business, how to make and scale investments in social, and determine which sources of traffic are worth more in real dollars. At the heart of the new capability was a component called Social ROI, which attacked the universal problem of marketing attribution for site and business owners.

I guided the team on how to talk about the new features as a way to improve market share among enterprise users, where GA lagged competitively. Perhaps the most gratifying experience was collaborating with the lead designer on taxonomies for the new capabilities. 

Together we crafted a position for the new social measurement features that grabbed the attention of business analytics professionals, as well as technology and marketing press when they launched in March of 2012.

Bloggers and the press picked up on the story with a high degree of favor.