The relationship between consumers and advertising is changing. Advertising has fueled the explosive growth of the Internet and mobile media, bringing access to valuable content, services and applications at little or no cost to consumers. However, much of this growth has taken place without enough attention to user experience. Consumers have become increasingly frustrated with ads that disrupt their experience, interrupt content and slow browsing.
Consumers’ dissatisfaction with ads has created one of the biggest challenges for advertisers worldwide: ad blocking. According to Deloitte, As of mid-2015, there were an estimated 200 million monthly active users of ad-blockers on PCs globally, with 77 million active users in Europe and 45 million in the United States alone. eMarketer reported that in 2016 69.8 million Americans will use an ad blocker, a jump of 34.4 percent from last year. The same report found that next year, that figure is expected to grow another 24 percent to 86.6 million people.
If publishers cannot contain ad blocking, they will risk denying marketers access to valuable audiences and increasing the price of online advertising significantly.
So what are we doing about it?
In an effort to improve the relationship between consumers and advertisers, the Coalition for Better Ads was unveiled at dmexco in September. The Coalition is a cross-industry effort, through which trade groups, marketers, agencies and publishers have come together to show their commitment to improving the advertising experience for Internet users. All of the big hitters in the industry – marketers, including Unilever and P&G; agency groups and media companies, including GroupM, Google and Facebook; trade associations like the 4A’s, ANA, IAB, DMA and publishing giants like Newscorp, New York Times, Washington Post and more -- are throwing their weight behind the initiative.
The Coalition will work hard to improve integrity across an array of issues in digital advertising, from user experience to fraud, viewability and more. It makes sense that we are dealing with some of these problems, considering how young the industry still is: it’s still having growing pains. But it’s also important that we start to address these issues now. Ad blocking won’t be our last hurdle, and The Coalition is well positioned to guide the industry through this challenge and the ones to come.
Part of overcoming ad blocking involves communicating the value exchange between advertising and access to free content with the internet user. However, whilst it is vital that we make this understood, we can’t, in clear conscience, have the conversation until we have addressed the poor user experience that is driving consumers to ad blocking. To begin to do so, The Coalition will do the following:
Coalition member IAB has already begun this important work. IAB released its new formats and standards for ad units, which they hope will have a major impact on user experience and help to stem the tide of ad blocking. In IAB’s efforts to produce a better user experience, they announced the new flexible ad formats that are intended to make it easier for publishers and advertisers to deliver ads easily across multiple devices and screen sizes. The proposed standards would also ban pop-up ads that appear automatically, as well as fixed-size expansion ads that cover up part of the adjacent editorial content.
IAB’s proposed standards are also intended to conform to their own guidelines for L.E.A.N. ads. L.E.A.N. is an acronym for Light, which addresses latency; Encrypted, which ensures consumers’ data is kept safe; Ad choice, which ensures different formats are supported and are privacy compliant; and, Non-invasive, a quality that would help eradicate formats that encourage ad blocking, like pop-ups, non-skippable video, interstitials and more.
While there is a great deal of hard work ahead of us, the Coalition for Better Ads is certainly a step in the right direction, and it is a great sign of unity in our industry. By working together through the Coalition, marketers, agencies, publishers and the ad tech community will make consumers’ experiences of the ad-supported web vastly better. Skeptics may predict that it will be difficult to attract users that have experienced ad blockers back to an advertising-led model. While I’m not inclined to agree, if that is true, then taking action is still essential so we can to retain the 80 percent that has not defected yet.
If you would like to learn more about the Coalition for Better Ads visit www.betterads.org. We will keep you apprised of all of our hard work and are looking forward to supporting quality content on the Internet for years to come.