March 22, 2017

Advertisers' Coalition Pushes ‘Better Standards’ for Desktop and Mobile Ads

A collation of advertisers and agencies on both sides of the Atlantic have backed a set of global standards that insist their peers stop using annoying online formats that have expedited the rise of adblocking.

It identifies six desktop formats including pop-up ads and auto-play videos alongside 12 mobile web experiences such as presititial ads and full-screen scrollover variants . (The full list of problematic ad formats can be seen on the coalition’s website).

Many on the list have long been singled out by advertisers and users alike as formats that detract from the user experience, and so the findings from a survey of more 25,000 consumers who rated 104 ad experiences for desktop and mobile web in North American and European markets is unlikely to surprise many observers.

Driven by the Coalition for Better Ads, which was formed at the height of the ad blocking debate last year, the learnings will now be shared amongst its members via presentations with trade associations, conference participation and webinars in the hope that the cited ad formats can be purged from media plans. The World Federation of Advertisers (WFA), itself a member, has said it will be one of those “strongly encourages its members and all advertisers to review the research and implement the Better Ads Standards in their online campaigns, helping improve the online ad experience for consumers and reduce the incentive to ad block”.

Some 615 million devices now use adblocking software, equating to 11% of the global internet population who are blocking ads, according to PageFair. The trend, which has steadiliy risen since 2013, was up 30% last year and is mainstream across all ages.

“As an industry, we need to make the online environment more consumer-friendly and with the Coalition – which includes Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Facebook, and Google – we have a critical mass of large ad industry players working hard to make this a reality,” said the WFA’s chief executive Stephan Loerke.

“I hope that consumers will quickly see the difference as, pop-up ads and large sticky ads disappear from the desktop web, and flashing ads, auto playing video ads and prestitial ads disappear from the mobile web.

Beyond the initial rollout, the coalition plans to commission additional research on desktop, mobile and other online environments across more regions such as Asia and Latin America alongside further testing in Europe and North America.

“The Coalition’s research methodology reveals how the worst performing ads are associated with a greater propensity to install ad blockers and a lower likelihood to revisit a web page,” said Randall Rothenberg, president and chief executive of the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB). “The initial Better Ads Standards provide advertisers, agencies, publishers and ad tech companies with guidance that can deliver tangible benefits to consumers and the online ad industry.”

For all the momentum behind the standards from various trade associations, similar revelations have been made before. The IAB published similar guidance last summer, when it revealed that people run ad blockers to avoid those autoplay videos with sound and slow loading web pages.

Despite this, coalition’s the report is likely to generate much interest given its arrival at a time of much debate and introspection as to how much responsibility marketers need to take over their media budgets. From Marc Pritchard’s withering assessment of the “murky at best, fraudulent at worse” media supply chain to brand safety issues with YouTube, transparency issues that have lingered since the advent of online marketing are crystalising into action.

The tension has been brought into sharp focus at Advertising Week Europe where Unilever’s chief marketing officer Keith Weed warned the industry of solely laying the blame at Google’s feet.

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