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Criteria for Acceptable Mobile Ads Released

Nothing is black and white. While it is true that 25% of users block online advertising, surveys conducted by Eyeo, the makers of Ad Block Plus, have revealed that there are some ads even users of ad blockers don’t mind. That led to Eyeo setting up a “white list” of companies that agreed to run only the acceptable formats. While this action was dismissed by the most vocal anti-advertising people as “pay to play,” time has passed, the industry has moved on, people are beginning to realize how much it would cost to subscribe to everything they wanted to consume, and an uneasy peace reigns as the number of new people installing ad blockers dwindles.

To make its peace with the industry, Eyeo also formed an Acceptable Ads Committee, consisting of representatives from the publishing, advertising, and ad tech communities. Eyeo then spun the committee out as an independent entity, and that group of representatives has now released a list of criteria for Mobile Acceptable Ads. ZEDO has been represented on this committee since its inception/

Mobile-specific Acceptable Ads Criteria

Placement Requirements

  • Static ad types (e.g. 6×1 banner and 1×1 tile ad without animations) are allowed to be placed anywhere on the mobile page. For an example of a 6×1 ad, this time placed on top of the content, please see thishere is an example of a 1×1 ad unit.
  • Small ads (6×1 banner or smaller) are allowed to be placed as a sticky ad on the bottom of the screen. Other formats are not allowed to stick. For an example of a 6×1 sticky ad unit, please see this.
  • Large ad types (e.g. “native” tile ads) are only allowed to be placed under the primary content on any page. For an example of this type of ad unit please see this.

Size

Ads shown on mobile screens are bound to the following size restrictions:

  • Ads implemented on the scrollable portion of the webpage, before or inside the primary content of the page, may not occupy in total more than 50 percent of the visible portion of the webpage.
  • Ads implemented as a “sticky ad” have a maximum height restriction of 75px or 15% of the screen height. All sticky ads must include a close button or some other easily-identifiable closing mechanism.
  • Ads placed below the primary content may not exceed the height of 100% of the screen height (i.e. the ad may not be more than one “full scroll” height).

Animations

Animations are allowed for the 6×1 ad type when placed as a “sticky” ad on the bottom of the screen. Animations have to comply with the LEAN standard for animations.

Next year, the committee is going to work on standards for mobile video. This is not easy work, because we have to run everything by our audience. Feedback from this round was generated by conducting a survey in partnership with Hubspot. Our conclusion is that we need a larger sample so we can get even more feedback on the tolerance of users who run ad blockers to mobile ads.

In other news, people who haven’t been as willing to work with ad-blocking users have develped other ways to reach those users, and Eyeo has invested in AI technology to help its customers better spot “native” ads that aren’t easy to distinguish from actual content.

What Are Acceptable Ads?

Of all the industry initiatives around making the online ad industry more friendly to users, only Eyeo, the German company behind Ad Block Plus, has spent the last few years doing research on people who download ad blockers, especially their own. The rest of the industry organizations are basically guessing what users will tolerate based on what they’d like to promote. What Ad Block Plus found through a Google survey  conducted in January is that 18% of Americans use an ad blocker on the desktop, and so do 20% of Europeans. But 83% of those running an ad blocker would be happy to see ads that don’t interfere with their user experience.

It’s impossible to write about this too often, since it doesn’t ever seem to sink in, but the root of the ad blocking problem isn’t ads. It’s user experience, and most of the deterioration of UX is due to data collection and tracking. It’s mind boggling how many trackers are on most publisher sites, for everything from analytics to data collection. This tracking is what users hate. It steals their privacy, hijacks their user experience, and shows them only disrespect.

On the other hand, users also hate paying for content, especially young people who have grown up in a world where web content has largely been free. Although sites like the New York Times have grown their subscriber bases admirably, they jury is still out on whether sites like Bloomberg and Wired will garner enough subscribers to make their pay walls “pay.”

And the people who download ad blockers are generally young, well-educated, employed with higher than average incomes, and comfortable with completing their purchases online. In short, they’re a demographic many advertisers would want to reach.

AdBlock Plus has figured out a way to reach them: by respecting their preferences.

Face facts: compelling sites with quality content are not free to run. Advertising used to cover the cost of these sites until publishers lost the battle to protect their visitors’ experience to programmatic advertising. No one knew in advance this would happen.

But Ad Block Plus has now come up with suggested ad formats that do not destroy the user experience, and ad-blocking users have willingly consented to see them. 92% of their users have said they’ll participate in a program through an exchange that can make ad-blocking visitors available to premium brands under special circumstances.

Will this work? Well, for publishers it is tempting because it allows them to monetize their ad-blocking users. And agencies will probably salivate because the exchange gives them access to more than 150,000,000 new users in the most desirable demographic. EMarketer said that 41% of millennials used ad blockers in 2017. Being able to reach them with ads they’ve agreed to let through is quite desirable.

The key is going to be to keep to the rigid rules of Acceptable Ads, which emphasize position, transparency, and size. It’s a cop out to say that time will tell, but Ad Block Plus is only just out of its closed beta with the Acceptable Ads Exchange, so we can’t say much else yet.