In response to a rising swell of consumer complaints about annoying advertising and the growing use of ad blockers, the IAB had to reverse its previously holier-than-thou position that consumers would just have to endure ads if they wanted free content. In a post on its blog, IAB admitted that it had messed up in not putting user experience first all along, and for being complicit in making the mobile web especially a terrible experience larded with slow-loading pages, endless retargeting, and data trackers. Oh, and unwanted expense. It has been estimated that up to half of a mobile user’s data plan dollars could be spent on viewing unwelcome ads.
Thus will be born a new set of standards, appropriately named L.E.A.N. LEAN stands for light, encrypted, ad choice supported, non-invasive advertising. The specifics of these standards will be determined, of course, by a working group with industry input, and later with input from consumer rights groups as well. Needless to say, we’v already volunteered to be on the working group, as user experience has always been a prime focus of our business.
User experience is why our inArticle video format does not autoplay audio, and why our InView unit only loads when a viewer is there to see it. We’ve always been conscious of page load times, and since we only work with premium publishers, we have for years partnered with them to preserve the user experience when our ads appear.
IAB is going to target what we feel might be the single most annoying part of digital advertising: retargeting. It will probably be suggested in the guidelines that a consumer who has already made a purchase not be retargeted at all. It will also be suggested that video ads not autoplay in all contexts, and publishers will probably have to re-design their sites once again for a lower volume of ads.
The volume of third party data trackers on some publisher sites will also go down.
Nor will IAB abandon its crusade for viewability, about which it set standards last year.Lower numbers of ads on pages should make the issue of viewability better.
IAB can’t force the industry to adhere to these standards, but it is going to offer them as an alternative or additional set of guidelines for making digital ads. It will roll them out during the next six months,, suggesting that publishers (for their own good) not accept ads from any advertisers who do not adhere.
We are looking forward to the implementation of these new guidelines, because we see them as a win-win for publishers, who will have better performing sites, advertisers, who will have increased ROI from targeting users who aren’t angry, and the users themselves, who will regain the kind of ad experience they enjoyed in the golden age of print.