But of course you know this already. Everyone has heard this. Except, apparently, the Interactive Advertising Bureau, which has only just been brought up to speed -- and let me tell you, its principals are stunned.
But, to their credit, not defensive. Disheartened and apologetic, the IAB has taken immediate steps, first to acknowledge and then to rectify. Acknowledge: The Bureau’s blog post addressing the issue (for which I owe a hat tip to my MediaPost colleague Joe Mandese) begins, “We messed up. As technologists, tasked with delivering content and services to users, we lost track of the user experience.”
Rectify: “Today, the IAB Tech Lab is launching the L.E.A.N. Ads program… L.E.A.N. stands for Light, Encrypted, Ad choice supported, Non-invasive ads… [W]e must also address frequency capping on retargeting in Ad Tech and make sure a user is targeted appropriately before, but never AFTER they make a purchase… Additionally, we must address volume of ads per page as well as continue on the path to viewability.”
True. And true. People tend to hate ads that are distracting, interruptive and irrelevant. We much prefer ads that are non-invasive, ads that are useful to us, that answer questions, solve problems, scratch itches.
But I suspect the IAB team is about five years too late. In August, Pagefair released its annual ad-blocking report. Some interesting statistics are to be found therein, such as the fact that ad-blocking is estimated to have cost publishers nearly $22 billion during 2015. Such as the fact that there are now 198 million active ad-block users around the world. Such as the fact that ad-blocking grew by 41% globally in the last 12 months, and over 48% in the U.S.
So now, just for a moment, imagine that you are not the kind of person who would read this column. Imagine you are one of those 198 million, someone who has gotten sick and tired of having their Internet experience degraded by the invasiveness of the paid content. Imagine you are not the kind of person who has heard of the IAB.
Will the Bureau’s L.E.A.N. standards matter? Within the next year, five years, 10, within the next however long it takes to first agree on the standards and then roll them out, another few hundred million people will have given up, will have installed ad blockers themselves and severed the contract of my-monetized-eyeballs-for-your-free-content. Do you think those people will uninstall if we tell them that the ads are better now, we promise?
Or has the horse already galloped off into the sunset?