Browser Plug-In Adds Huge Red Banner Above Sponsored Ads


Google product designer develops a simple method for spotting native advertising

  • 2 september 2014

You might not be one of them, but countless people have read an article online without realizing it’s an advertisement. Making the distinction can be difficult sometimes, but thanks to a brand new browser plug-in called AdDetector, native advertising might soon have nowhere left to hide. When you visit sites such as BuzzFeed, The Atlantic, or the New York Times, the plug-in will stick a big red banner at the top of the page to let you know you’re reading sponsored content.

Not all news providers are the same, with some clearly marking sponsored content, and others displaying just enough to avoid legal complications. Terminology can change depending on which site you visit as well. Created by by Google product engineer Ian Webster in his spare time, AdDetector wants to simplify things by letting you know about integrated advertising using the same method – regardless of which site you happen to be on.


As pointed out by the Wall Street Journal (which also uses native advertising), BuzzFeed’s recent article “15 Surprisingly Simple Ways To Increase Your Energy,” triggers the bold red banner at the top of the page. Compare that to the site’s own “Cheerios: Brand Publisher” byline, and it shows you just how little attention was being drawn to the advertiser in the first place.

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

A similar public warning voiced by John Oliver on his show a few weeks ago was what helped to convoke Webster that this particular plug-in was important. Oliver’s insightful look at native advertising is over 11 minutes long, but it’s well worth a watch, even if you have to wait until you get home.

Unlike other ad-blocking plug-ins, AdDetector doesn’t block or delete the sponsored content, it just makes it very clear at the top of the page that you’re about to read something paid for by a corporation. Webster hopes this approach will force the quality (and clarity) of sponsored content to improve, instead of trying to get rid of it completely.

Download the plug-in (available for Chrome and Firefox) here.


[h/t] WSJ

Images via Buzzfeed

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