If your goal as a publisher is to ensure you’re providing an enhanced user experience while running acceptable, then you’ll need to adhere to two ad formatting criteria:
The Better Ads Standards and the Acceptable Ads Standards.
Both are critical in the ad tech industry in terms of delivering relevant ads without destroying the user experience. Of course, while they share some common goals, they’re both very different.
Here’s what you need to know and understand about the two ad standards that can make or break your monetization strategy:
Better Ads and Acceptable Ads: What Exactly Are They?
When we talk about Better Ads and Acceptable Ads, we’re not talking about any singular specific type of ad but rather a standard for certain ad criteria.
Better Ads is a term coined by the non-profit consortium otherwise known as The Coalition for Better Ads. This coalition has designed the “Better Ads Standards,” which the ad tech industry follows to ensure they’re delivering the best possible user experience through their online ads.
Essentially, the purpose is to make sure that the ads being presented to users are enjoyable and non-disruptive so that users don’t feel the need to use ad-blockers or click out of a website simply because the ads are off-putting. To be more specific, when we say off-putting ads, we mean audio-video ads, flashing ads, roll-over ads that result in a full-screen takeover, and so on.
Acceptable Ads come from a for-profit company known as Eyeo GmbH. You may be familiar with Eyeo as they’re the parent company of AdBlock and AdBlock Plus extensions—which are among the most popular ad-blocking extensions out there.
Eyeo came up with a company called the Acceptable Ads Committee, which the ad tech industry also looks to in terms of “Acceptable Ads Standards.” The Acceptable Ads Standards aim to deliver “respectful, non-intrusive, and relevant ads” to the typical ad-blocking users. These standards allow publishers to serve ads that meet predefined criteria to the group of users that have consented to allow the less irritating ads to be delivered.
The committee claims that since they’ve created the Acceptable Ads Standard, more than 150 million ad-blocking users have agreed to allow the less intrusive ads to play out as they browse.
What Publishers Need to Know About the Standards
Both types of ad standards were designed to meet their own specific criteria. These criteria were founded based on the individual research conducted by both organizations. The goal was to find out how to better online ad formats so that they would be less invasive to users so that digital publishers could continue to monetize their inventory and grow.
Let’s talk about the process behind both types of standards:
Better Ads Standards
The Coalition for Better Ads surveyed thousands of paid participants to be able to implement their standards for the ad tech industry. Initially, they included more than 25,000 users from both North America and Europe in regards to approximately 55 desktop ad experiences and 49 mobile ad experiences.
This initial survey was meant to determine which were the worst of all the ad experiences that caused users to install ad blockers. Their subsequent surveys were conducted in Asia, Latin America, and Africa, to ensure that all demographics were covered as well as ad preferences.
Ultimately, 66,000 users worldwide were surveyed and the Better Ads Standards came to identify four intrusive ad formats for desktop users and eight for mobile users.
These would include the following for desktop users:
- Pop-up ads
- Auto-playing video ads with sounds
- Prestitial countdown ads
- Large sticky ads
For mobile ads, the following are most intrusive:
- Pop-up ads
- Prestitial countdown ads
- Ad density that’s higher than 30%
- Flashing, animated ads
- Auto-playing video ads with sound
- Postitial countdown ads
- Full-screen scroll over ads
- Large sticky ads
All of the above ad formats were found to be the least preferred among all users and the most likely to cause them to adopt the use of ad blockers. In following these standards, publishers are encouraged to try and avoid them as much as possible.
Acceptable Ads Standards
According to Eyeo, the research process was very different compared to that of The Coalition for Better Ads. For starters, the organization’s studies are rooted in data-driven research, in which suggestions are given by a representative and then assessed by members of the committee.
Once the members have agreed on which standards to implement, the suggestions are taken online to gain user feedback in real-time. From there, the ultimate decision on whether or not to make the suggestion a standard is left up to a vote.
For example, in 2017, roughly 2,000 mobile ad-blocking users were surveyed to rate up to 12 different ad types. The ratings were set on a scale of one to five, with five being the most intrusive. The overall results took into account not just ad type but also ad size, placement, content, animation, and why users chose to install an ad blocker.
The findings were assessed by the committee and the standard for mobile ads was finalized the following year.
The Difference in Approach
One thing publishers must remain aware of is that both organizations’ standards have a different approach in terms of making the ad format experience better overall. The Coalition for Better Ads makes its standards voluntary whereas The Acceptable Ads Committee is more stringent in that it will block the ads of any party who refuses to follow its standards.
However, it’s important to note that some DSPs, SSPs, and others make the Better Ads Standard mandatory. Therefore, publishers who choose not to follow the standards can’t work with them.
Criticism of Acceptable Ads Standards
Being that the Acceptable Ads Standards are more punitive, Eyeos has been met with harsh criticism from the start. This is especially due to the fact that even after complying with the organization’s standards, users can still opt to block the ads.
Additionally, The Acceptable Ads Committee claims that it doesn’t take any fees from smaller organizations. However, most parties within the ad tech industry are closely connected and therefore share in their losses. Even companies like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft are paging large fees to Eyeo, and the IAB has even called the AdBlock Plus extension a method of extortion.
Ultimately, the allegations and backlash against the committee and its Acceptable Ad Standard make it more controversial than helpful.
What’s to Be Done?
As a publisher, your financial growth is contingent on the user experience. This means that irrespective of the two ad standards put in place for the ad tech industry, it’s up to you to ensure that you’re not delivering ads that will disrupt the user experience.
When it comes to figuring out the Acceptable Ad Standard, keep in mind that ad blockers also equate to revenue loss for you. Therefore, you’ll want to calculate how much that loss will be and compare it to the revenue loss you’ll face by complying with the Acceptable Ads Standards and choose the lesser evil.