Facebook and Google control somewhere between 65% and 80% of all ad dollars, so you can be sure they will both try to make the world safe for advertising. Facebook has already done so with newsfeed ads, an algorithm that allows users to say what they don’t want to see, and micro-targeting opportunities for advertisers. Google is trying to approach things in a different way — by investigating the idea of “acceptable ads,” which was put on the table by AdBlock Plus.
Unfortunately, acceptable ads — plain vanilla banners in most cases — are not the kind of advertising brands and agencies want to pay for. Brands already know those ads have very low ROI. And now that they know how much is possible with rich media and especially video, it is difficult for them to go back to earlier, less intrusive formats. Yet rich formats and slow page load times are what have led consumers to greater use of ad blockers. Once again, the industry is at odds with itself, publishers don’t want to be pushed to redesign sites to make pages load faster, and advertisers don’t want to give up high impact.
At first, Google tried to solve the page load problem from the other end, with Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) that speed up the delivery of the actual content on a page. They also tried gently to discourage slow-loading ads on AMP pages. But AMP pages, which are rolling out slowly, didn’t really vitiate the anger of users who disliked the ads themselves.
Google is now trying to arrive at a standard for ads that run on YouTube, Google’s other sites, and through the Doubleclick ad network. Since many large companies use DFP, it’s possible that Google will have the power to enforce standards. IAB, of course, has already created the L.E.A.N. standard for acceptable ads, about which we have written before, but IAB as an industry organization doesn’t have much enforcement power.
And here’s why Google does: it is a tech company. It has a large cadre of great engineers who, if they put their minds to it, could create something that works.
But don’t think the rest of the industry will welcome that with open arms.
Publishers don’t want to see Google act on its own when it comes to deciding what should be acceptable and what’s not. Said another publishing exec with direct knowledge of the plans, “They need to get input from publishers.”
Google’s ad execs have already publicly talked about the need to settle on some criteria for what acceptable ads are and that it needs to be an industry effort.