Mobile Acceptable Ads Standards, Part One

The ad experience on mobile is very different from desktop, and advertisers are learning that, even as they delay ad spend on mobile until they figure it out. It is much easier to annoy a visitor to a mobile site who is scrolling through a feed, and advertisers know that. Last year, Facebook, Google, and IAB, along with many other industry players, formed the Coalition for Acceptable Ads. Like all industry committees, the Coalition took a while to release its standards, but here are a few of the worst offenders. The conclusions are based on consumer studies about what would make a viewer likely to install an ad blocker.

The worst offender, full screen scrollover ads. These are very similar to takeover ads from the past.

Full-Screen Scrollover ads force a user to scroll through an ad that appears on top of content. These ads take up more than 30% of the page and float on top of the page’s main content, obstructing it from view. The result can be disorienting for users, as it obscures the content a consumer is attempting to browse. These are different from similar ads that scroll in-line with the content and more smoothly scroll out of sight.

Autoplay video with sound. We don’t know why Facebook is again experimenting with these, but we bet they will go away again.

Auto-playing video ads with sound automatically play with sound, without any user interaction.

This ad experience is especially disruptive because it catches the reader off guard and often compels them to quickly close the window or tab in order to stop the sound — especially if they are on their mobile device and in a public place, where such noise can be a public nuisance and personal embarrassment.

Ads that require a click to activate sound did not fall beneath the initial Better Ads Standard.

The Better Ads Methodology has not yet tested video ads that appear before (“pre-roll”) or during (“mid-roll”) video content that is relevant to the content of the page itself.

Included ad experiences tested: Auto-playing in-line video with sound

Postitial ads with countdown.

Postitial ads with countdown timers appear after the user follows a link. These ads force the user to wait a number of seconds before they can dismiss the ad, or for the ad to close or redirect them to another page.

These ads frustrate users by breaking the flow of content in a manner that can prove distracting — if a user is trying to navigate from one page to another, only to be delayed by this ad, they might abandon the page entirely.

Postitial ads with countdowns that can be dismissed immediately did not fall beneath the initial Better Ads Standard.

Large sticky ads:

Large Sticky Ads stick to a side of a mobile page, regardless of a user’s efforts to scroll. As the user browses the page, this static, immobile sticky ad takes up more than 30% of the screen’s real estate.

A Large Sticky Ad has an impeding effect by continuing to obstruct a portion of the mobile page view regardless of where the user moves on the page. A Large Sticky Ad’s positioning disrupts and obscures a page’s main content — unavoidably leading to a negative user experience.

Included ad experiences tested: Large sticky ad on the bottom

There are more, and we will discuss those next week. Ad Age greeted these standards with a big, “duh,” but we see them on mobile sites all the time, which means marketers still buy them. We, however, do not sell them in our mobile suite — for obvious reasons. Why make a visitor angry if you are trying to close a sale?