Better Ads Vs. Acceptable Ads

Reading time: 5 minutes

If your goal as a publisher[3] 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[4] 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

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[5], flashing ads, roll-over ads that result in a full-screen takeover, and so on. 

Acceptable Ads

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[6] 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[2]  

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[1] 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. 

1. Interactive Advertising Bureau [IAB] ( IAB ) The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) empowers the media and marketing industries to thrive in the digital economy. Its membership is comprised of more than 650 leading media companies, brands, and the technology firms responsible for selling, delivering and optimizing digital ad marketing campaigns. The trade group fields critical research on interactive advertising, while also educating brands, agencies, and the wider business community on the importance of digital marketing. In affiliation with the IAB Tech Lab, IAB develops technical standards and solutions. IAB is committed to professional development and elevating the knowledge, skills, expertise, and diversity of the workforce across the industry. Through the work of its public policy office in Washington, D.C., the trade association advocates for its members and promotes the value of the interactive advertising industry to legislators and policymakers. Founded in 1996, IAB is headquartered in New York City.
2. Anchor Ads ( sticky ads ) Anchor ads or also known as sticky ads. These are ads that stay fixed at a particular position on the screen even while the user scrolls up or down on the page.
3. publisher. Web publishing is the process of publishing original content on the Internet. The process includes building and uploading websites, updating the associated webpages, and posting content to these webpages online. Web publishing is also known as online publishing.
4. ad tech. Advertising Technology, or ad tech, refers to software built for the advertising industry that helps improve media effectiveness and increase operational efficiencies. Ad tech can refer to a number of platforms, including demand-side platforms (DSPs), data management platforms (DMPs), supply-side platforms (SSPs) and ad exchanges.
5. video ads. Video ads are ads that display within video formats. Many different variations and types of video ads exist. They can serve before, during or after the video plays.

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