How to improve the consumer online and mobile advertising experience – ad format choice matters

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The Coalition for Better Ads, a group of advertisers, ad buyers and sellers from Europe and the US, has published a series of new advertising industry standards to target annoying practices and ultimately avoid the increase in ad blocker usage.

Among the formats being targeted are pop-up ads, auto-play video ads and animated flashing adverts. In general, ads which completely mask underlying content are seen as intrusive and have been linked to a rise in ad blockers being installed.

A study by the coalition among 25,000 Internet users on desktops and mobile phones highlighted six desktop advertising formats and 12 mobile ad formats which scored below the threshold for consumer acceptability.

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Nancy Hill, President and CEO, 4As, explains:

“The scope and nature of this research provides insight into how consumers view different online ad experiences, highlighting what’s working well, and what we need to re-think in order to secure more meaningful engagement. The consumer preferences identified in the Better Ads Standards will be useful to our members who wish to take action to improve the online experience.”

As part of the study, consumers were tasked to read articles on quality content pages and rate the various advertising experiences they received. Among the mobile formats found to fall below standards are pop-up ads, prestitial ads, ads with a density of more than 30%, flashing animated ads, auto-play video ads with sounds, postitial ads with countdown, fullscreen scroll-over ads and large sticky ads.

Randall Rothenberg, President and CEO, IAB, adds that hopefully these findings will be somewhat of a wake-up call for brands, agencies and publishers “and that they will retire the ad formats that research proves annoy and abuse consumers. If they don’t, ad blocking will rise, advertising will decline, and the marketplace of ideas and information that supports open societies and liberal economies will slide into oblivion.”

The Coalition which consists of major ad associations and platforms including Google, Facebook, advertisers such as Procter & Gamble and Unilever and publishers including News Corp, Washington Post and Thomson Reuters, plans to launch a set of educational materials and activities for members and the industry at large.

It hopes that the research will encourage better industry standards and practices to improve the online ad experience.

A recent PageFair report points towards the rapid rise in mobile browser ad blocking software over the span of just 12 months.

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Chuck Curran, a lawyer for the Coalition, concludes:

“This is an opportunity, with the breadth of our participation, to actually not only capture what the consumer doesn’t want but also to really educate and take action to make that a reality in the online experience.”