IAB’s Lean Guidelines Are Overdue

Last week the  IAB finally decided it was better to the join people who complain about slow page loads and annoying ads than to try to beat them. Simply put, it would have been a losing fight. The people have spoken, and the people are the visitors to publisher sites and the target audience for advertisers. So IAB is going to put out a set of new guidelines designed to solve the problem the industry thinks consumers have with ads.

Under the acronym L.E.A.N. — light, encrypted, ad choice, non-interruptive — the program will roll out over the next six months. The idea is to get publishers to clean up their sites, relying less on obnoxious ads that slow sites to a crawl and scare the bejesus out of users.

The IAB puts the burden on publishers to make their sites load faster and the user experience less off-putting.

But we have been a publisher ad server since 1999, and we have never found publishers to be unconscious of their user experience. In fact, most publishers are not willing to try new advertising formats that they think might spoil that experience. However, as CPMs went down, publishers were forced to try new things, and that’s where the breakdown occurred.

It’s wrong to blame the entire rejection of advertising that ad blocking software represents on the publisher. The advertiser also has to shoulder part of the burden. And one of the largest global advertisers, Pepsi, has decided to rest the blame on the shoulders of ad agencies who have not re-thought the creative formats for digital advertising.

Last week  an executive of Pepsi pointed out at the Association of National Advertisers meeting that he hates ads, and that not only is the agency model broken, but we may have to do away with the very word “advertising” and re-invent the way we reach consumers.  “Can we stop using the term advertising, which is based on this model of polluting [content],” he said.

“My particular peeve is pre-roll. I hate it,” he added. “What is even worse is that I know the people who are making it know that I’m going to hate it. Why do I know that? Because they tell me how long I am going to have to endure it — 30 seconds, 20 seconds, 15 seconds. You only have to watch this crap for another 10 seconds and then you are going to get to the content that you really wanted to see. That is a model of polluting content that is not sustainable.”

What will happen? The same thing that happened when pop-ups dominated advertising a decade ago. Consumers began to block them in the browser, and they gradually fell out of favor with advertisers. Perhaps that will also happen with pre-roll.  We are still feeling our way to the “right” kind of advertising to serve to consumers. Ad blocking software will help us get there faster.