ANA, 4As And IAB Include Browsers In Self-Regulatory Digital Ad Standards

Three major industry advertising groups have joined forces to push the Coalition for Better Ads (CBA) to create self-regulatory guidelines that would prohibit and prevent browser developers and other technology companies from making up their own rules when it comes to ad blocking.

In the letter addressed to the CBA, which more than a dozen ad trade groups and others formed in September 2016 to develop global standards for online advertising, the CEOs of the ANA, 4As and IAB asks the industry to adopt a framework called "The Better Ads Experience Program" to reduce ambiguity and require each company to follow the same standards. This includes browser developers, publishers and technology delivery companies.

"Browsers and other delivery technology companies would need to adhere to the Coalition’s definitions and interpretations of the standards," according to the letter. The standards would help browsers make decisions on what ads to run.

The letter doesn't call out Google and Microsoft specifically, although both develop and host browsers. "The letter speaks for itself," said an IAB spokesperson.

Not according to Chris Loretto, executive vice president of digital at Digital First Media. "The letter was somewhat confusing," he said.

One thing is certain -- "the industry absolutely needs to clean up their act because it's a major problem in the industry," he said.

While standards were agreed on by CBA members, the implementation, blocking limitations, and the fact that publishers could no longer run certain ads, along with imposed penalties were not.

Still in debate are a long list of requirements such as how the program will be managed and who will participate.

Google said it would begin blocking ads in Chrome that do not comply with CBA standards, but not all the standards are in place to determine which to block. Those standards would create a safe harbor from browsers refusing to run ads that do not meet the standards.  

The CEOs of the ANA, 4As and IAB are "united" in the belief that standard-based products to remove unacceptable user experience must be self-regulated and not left to individual browser companies or others to implement according to their own interpretations and assessment processes.

Otherwise it would "create chaos in the marketing-media supply chain and reduce both the quality and output of our member companies," according to the letter.

In fall of 2016, the industry formed the Coalition for Better Ads determine the advertisements that undermine the best experience on the internet and force people to install ad blockers.

Research by the coalition — about 25,000 polled — identified popup ads, auto-play videos with sound and too many simultaneous ads as some of the least welcome ad experiences online.

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