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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.

How to Make User Experience Better on Digital Sites

Ad blocking is not the end of the world for ad-supported digital content. In fact, it’s just forcing all of us to do better. It’s as if we received an industry-wide wakeup call while there was smoke but not yet an outright fire.

A combination of better ad formats and different KPIs for advertisers can save the current situation from getting worse, and can even repair the damage already done. ZEDO is always working on behalf of publisher partners to find ways to monetize and protect the viability of free digital content. We have representatives at the major industry groups, and a constant stream of input into industry developments.

For example, a recent Digiday webinar we attended on publishers and ad blockers shared the emerging best practices of premium publishers, which are really all over the place as they struggle to keep ahead of industry changes.  These publishers make frequent changes and perform lots of A/B testing to find out how to respond to consumer demand.

There is general agreement that asking consumers to turn off ad blockers only works a small percentage of the time. And charging for content only works in the case of very high value financial information.

But here is the good news: several publishers have simply used a technology to turn ads on for consumers who have installed ad blockers, and their page views have not gone down. They only turn on a small number of ads, and they’re careful how the place the ads and they try to serve ads that are truly engaging. This has told them that consumers often install ad blockers and forget they’ve done it, and don’t mind when the ads return. As long as the ads are not overwhelming. Further research has demonstrated that when people install ad blockers they do it to avoid tracking and slow page load times rather than to avoid ads per se.

We think that programmatic came in too quickly, making it too easy for publishers to stuff their sites with ads that cheapened the user experience. And users, who couldn’t get through a slow-loading site loaded with ads, bailed in droves, either by not visiting the site again or by installing ad blockers or both.

This is easy to fix. Don’t measure the old outdated stuff: how many ads served, how many ads seen. Measure engagement, which may be more difficult, but will ultimately produce the right rewards. We know we’ve ruined display advertising, so let’s not overuse video either. And let’s not think that all digital advertising is for direct sales; let’s make sure our sites are places where advertisers can place a brand ad and receive value. A smaller number of ads in engaging formats,  strategically placed and served to the right customers, can co-exist quite nicely with ad blockers.

 

 

 

 

Ad Blockers Also Block Useful Consumer Information

Here’s a new twist on the issue of ad blockers: they not only break the internet, but they break web sites as well. A study conducted by ad tech firm Oriel on how twenty-four common ad blockers, including UBlock, AdBlock, and AdBlockPlus found that the tools not only blocked popup ads, but were also accidentally corrupting useful parts of a website, such as retail order tracking pages or airline check-in screens. Many users install the ad blockers, and then forget they’ve done it, only to find out that information they really want to receive is missing from their screens.

Oriel tested 100 popular sites in the UK, including British Airways and Vodafone, Ryan Air, Land Rover and P&G.  A visitor to those sites who was running an ad blocker would not know what was wrong; she would only see an error message. This study will create greater consternation in the world of not only publishers, but also e-commerce sites.

It’s more complicated even than what we’ve just discussed, because Oriel tested only downloaded ad blockers. But they’re not the only way users can block ads. They can also use a browser like Opera or Brave, which have native ad blocking capabilities, or if they are really anxious to block ads. According to Oriel,

Mobile operator Three is even looking at blocking adverts at a network level, that is even before they reach mobile devices. It might seem convenient, but below the surface is a very shady, and serious issue – it is interfering, changing and potentially censoring web content and like a “man in the middle attack” the true nature of what the publisher intended to deliver to their website audience is therefore compromised.

British culture secretary John Whittingale likens this to a modern-day protection racket, in which the publishers who can afford it pay to have their sites whitelisted. In a speech at the Oxford Media Conference, Whittingale offered support to both publishers and people in the music industry.

Stopping short of announcing an outright ban on adblocking, he said he “shared the concern” of the newspaper industry about the impact of the technology and would “consider what role there is for government” after hearing all sides of the argument.

No, we haven’t forgotten the fact that Oriel has a dog in this hunt, since it markets a service that allows you to communicate with sites that block ads and assure that the advertiser’s message gets through. In a sense, it’s a blocker of ad blockers. But we think this is a good discussion to raise, and the fact that people like BA and P&G are involved, and that what’s affected are not just ads will cause the ad block sector to re-think how it is doing business and give the publishers and content providers stronger legs to stand on in battling ad blocking.

 

 

New Consumer-Driven Ad Standards Proposed

Will changes to the advertising industry come from within, or from outside? Doc Searls, one of the authors of the Cluetrain Manifesto (markets are conversations) and the founder of the VRM (vendor relations management) movement) and a well-known privacy and security expert, Mary Hodder, are about to release what they call a “term,” which amounts to a set of choices consumers can make about what ads they want to see.

They have convened a group of high quality publishers and ad tech companies, including the ad blocker software developers, and are rolling out a set of choices consumers will be able to make about what ads they see. Once the consumer says “I want only ads that don’t track me,” or “I want only brand ads,” the publisher will serve ads according to the individual consumers’ choice.

This puts the responsibility on the publisher to comply, and on the ad blocking software maker to implement correctly. It’s for people who have already said they want to block certain ads, in an effort to make sure they don’t block ALL ads and force the escalation of the ad blocking/anti-ad blocking war that threatens to cause more turbulence in the industry.

As for advertisers, who want more and more data, and are the ones who encourage tracking (and the ones who pay the bills), they will be asked to accept these limitations on how far they can stalk consumers who have already chosen to download ad blockers.

This same “term” will also be presented at the United Nations this week, in an effort to bring it in line with what the EU and other global entities have already enacted with regard to data privacy.

The TL;DR here is that programmatic and RTB will not vanish, but retargeting will cease, for everyone, just as popups did ten years ago. And most advertising will be brand advertising, for which ultra-tracking is not necessary.

In a way, this is just “back to the future,” for advertisers, who got carried away with metrics and forgot they were dealing with human beings.

All Ad Tech isn’t Evil

Ad tech is getting blamed for everything that is wrong with digital media today. And when the pundits speak of “ad tech,” they are lumping in everything from ad servers to RTB platforms to DMPs (Data Management Platforms) to SSPs (Supply Side Platforms) to retargeters to data trackers. But as usual, these generalizations throw out the baby with the bath water.

We also don’t like what consumers mean by “ad tech,” — programs that distribute malware, gather personal information and sell it, or slow down web sites with trackers.

But we think there’s a difference between tracking, which consumers think of as a violation of privacy, and giving useful information.

For example, we are an ad server. As an ad server, we don’t track anything, we simply receive information from advertisers and publishers and serve an ad. We’re a back end technology that isn’t sexy and doesn’t violate anyone’s privacy. That’s how we started.

We also have a private platform. A private platform, too, doesn’t track any personal information. It simply allows an advertiser to buy our high impact formats and be sure they’re going to our premium publisher network without any extraneous influence on the supply chain. If everyone did what we did, consumers wouldn’t be turning on ad blockers.

But they are, and that’s why we spend time with the Online Trust Association, listening to its members speak about what we have to do to preserve advertising as a way to keep content free. Ironically, even the people who make ad blocker software know that advertising won’t go away, and content should continue to be free.

How do we make this happen? Both advertisers and publishers need to learn more about their customers. That involves actually serving them once they are acquired, and talking to them to find out what they truly want to see.

For example, I’m looking for a new car. I no longer buy cars based on horsepower, or even gas mileage, and heaven forbid looks. I buy them for consumer safety technology, which involves movement in the direction of autonomous driving. I also buy them for their in-car media platforms: how much and what kind of software does this car have to help me be productive even in a traffic jam?

But most car salesmen can’t talk about those features in a new car, and most ads don’t feature them. Instead, the ads feature sleek bodies and voiceovers about speed.

When advertisers begin to make ads that actually make consumers familiar with the characteristics of a product that the consumer would actually use, advertising will be helpful again, and consumers won’t be tempted to block it. That’s why there’s such a movement toward native advertising.

But there are two kinds of native ads: one is native to the format of the digital publisher, and means the ad looks like whatever else the consumer is receiving in his or her stream. Promoted Tweets fall into this category. The other is native to the content of the publisher, and means the ad contains information that might be helpful to a consumer making a decision.

Both of these “native” concepts are most suited for brand advertising, and less for direct response. And isn’t that the way advertising was intended? As a way to offer consumers valuable information about products they might want, in a location where they already are?

Let’s go back to that future, and consumers will turn off the ad blockers.

 

 

 

Apple’s Doublespeak About Ad Blocking

The announcement that Apple was building hooks for ad blockers into Safari with the release of El Capitan and into its mobile platform with IOS9, combined with the forcefulness of Tim Cook’s big speech on how Apple respects the privacy of its users has raised the level of confusion or maybe pure hypocrisy around the use of consumer data to target ads to an astronomical level.

Who can blame the consumer for thinking large companies are “selling” their data, and with it their privacy to evil third parties.
Unpacking what Cook said: “of course Apple will not sell your customer data because we value your privacy and selling data isn’t our business model,” we look at it in juxtaposition to “come over to our iAd platform with your ad dollars because we have the best data about the most desirable users on our own platform. Of course Apple isn’t selling your data to someone else, because they’re using it themselves. And do you think the ad blockers will work for the ads served by Apple’s own iAd network? We don’t.

Facebook and Google aren’t selling your data either. They, too, are using it themselves to target ads. It would destroy their business model if they sold data at low prices instead of using it to sell advertising at high prices.

The language (data and privacy) with which the entire issue of free content, advertising and ad blockers is being presented to the consumer by the big platforms is misleading to say the least. Consumers are installing Ghostery and AdBlockerPlus not because they mind ads but because they fear surveillance and loss of privacy. But ironically, the issue isn’t privacy or surveillance. It is seeing advertising in return for free content.

We are long overdue for a broad conversation, probably best led by a collective of premium publishers, on the trade offs involved in keeping content free. We’re also long overdue for the kind of opportunity presented by native advertising and kick butt creative.

Why did users tolerate the kind of mass advertising presented on TV? Because television brought us the most creative content and creative moments in advertising. There were three components of ads during the Golden Age of advertising:
1. Ads weren’t targeted, so users didn’t feel threatened that someone was referring to them specifically.
2. Ads were clever and often compelling, telling memorable stories with high production values. Creative directors like Don Draper were prized.
3. Ads were often presented as sponsorships, in the way the Milton Berle show was “brought to you by Texaco.” Thank you, Texaco for bringing us Uncle Milty. Consumers understood: if you want to see this, you watch the ad and maybe end up humming the jingle.

Now the ad and the content are often quite removed from each other, leaving the consumer unenlightened about her role in the bargain.

It’s time to remind the consumer that there is no Uncle Milty without Texaco. We did it for TV and we can do it again for digital publishing.

Ad Blockers: Who Loses the Right to Survive?

The rapid growth of ad blocking software in Europe has rattled publishers. The figures say that up to 35% of online users, especially younger ones, block ads. With the shift to mobile, this may get worse. Some carriers have given thought to stripping mobile ads on behalf of their users. And a new Israeli company, Shine, launched a mobile ad blocker that allows users to strip mobile ads themselves.  When asked why users have a right to do this, Shine argues that mobile ads cost users 10% to 15% of data plans, deplete battery life and decrease l page load times, so users should have the option to block them.

Shine’s entire marketing program is based on the users’ “rights” not to be charged data charges to see ads. The company even refers to ad tech as “malware,” although the percentage of malware masquerading as malware is growing increasingly smaller. ZEDO has been active in  industrywide anti-malware efforts for years and they are working. We have built the technology to spot it and get it off our network.

Unfortunately, the courts have so far  still tended to side with the ad blockers. Ad blocking has  been deemed a legal business, and mobile device owners (unsurprisingly), also have the right to control what is on their screens.

Really? What about the publisher’s right to stay in business? If the user won’t pay for content (and a major percentage of users will not), and advertisers cannot have their ads seen, who exactly will pay the cost of free content?  The best selling apps, according to App Annie, which surfaces and rates all apps, are free, indicating users are no more willing to pay for apps or app content than they are to pay for news on the web.

Traditionally, the advertiser has also had rights — the right of free speech to market products to the audience in return for paying the cost of ads. And the publisher certainly has rights: the right to be in business and sell his inventory to an advertiser for a fair price.

Compounding this messy situation is that, when you look into the business models of most ad blockers they make their money from sites that pay them to be “whitelisted.” This is a form of blackmail, but publishers must pay so their advertisers can be seen.

If the use of ad blockers keeps growing, it will force the institution at long last of paid content on the internet. After all, one way publishers can retaliate might be to block access to their sites by anyone who is running an ad blocker, unless they are willing to pay for admission to the site or pay the cost to read a specific piece of content. The internet’s 20-year “summer of love” might finally be over. Publishers have to eat, too, you know.