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Where did advertising go wrong?

Apr 16, 2019 7:30:00 AM


Are we headed towards a world without advertising? 

One of the saviors of the ad-sponsored model may be acceptable ads. Learn how they restore the delicate balance between publisher monetization and user experience.

Can you imagine a world with no ads?

Procter & Gamble’s Marc Pritchard sure can. When such a statement is made by one of the largest media buyers in the world, reminding us that the advertising-sponsored model that underpins the internet is under siege, you can bet we’ll listen.

Annoying ad formats, bad placements, and poor creative drove users to adopt adblockers -- it’s reported that > 40% of internet users across the globe are blocking ads. We also learned that most adblock users do not hate ads and 77% of them are OK with seeing light ads. In their 2017 Report, PageFair astutely pointed out that “interruptive ad formats are the primary cause of user frustration, while non-interruptive formats, such as static banner ads, are broadly accepted.”

What’s interesting is that adblock users are often seen as a more marketable demographic than non-adblock users! They are not only more likely to buy a product after they’ve seen it in an ad, but are also spending more money online. So, the question becomes: How can publishers monetize their adblock audience via ads while creating a pleasant browsing experience?

We (along with ~10% of comScore 50 publishers in our portfolio) agree that adblock recovery via acceptable ads is publishers’ best chance of reversing the hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of dollars they are losing to adblocking every year.

This guide covers everything that you need to know about Acceptable Advertising, from the committee behind the initiative to the defined set of standards.


What are Acceptable Ads?

The Acceptable Ads Standard

  • A standard tailored to adblocking users who are willing to accept a lighter form of advertising
  • Subtle, non-intrusive ads which are accepted by adblocking users
  • 150M monthly active users have consented to Acceptable Ads
  • Governed by the independent Acceptable Ads Committee (as of 2017)


To find an acceptable middle ground for consumers, publishers, and advertisers


How does the Acceptable Ads Committee work?

In 2017, the parent company of Adblock Plus, eyeo GmbH handed the reins of Acceptable Ads over to an independent committee, addressing eyeo’s conflict of interest concerns.


The Structure of the Acceptable Ads Committee

blockthrough-pagefair-acceptable-ads-committeeThe independent committee represents the interests of the adtech community worldwide with members from industries such as digital rights organization, researchers and publishers, etc.

Representatives meet and discuss with members of their industry on how they should refine the current Acceptable Ads standard.


Some members of the Acceptable Ads Committee


Meet the Acceptable Ads Committee here.


The Acceptable Ads Committee Mandate

  • Propose and evaluate changes to the Acceptable Ads Standard; implement approved changes
  • Commission independent research on user attitudes towards proposed changes to the Acceptable Ads Standard
  • Decide whether an entity should be removed/prevented from getting on the whitelist based on past behavior with respect to users


How the Acceptable Ads Committee and Adblockers work together?

The Acceptable Ads Committee

  • Defines the standard by deciding on what is and isn’t “acceptable” based on user research
  • Nominates and elects all future committee members
  • Reports to all Acceptable Ads Committee members what happens at meetings

Participating Adblockers (e.g. Adblock, Adblock Plus, Crystal etc.)

  • Enforce the standard by handling whitelisting in accordance with the Acceptable Ads Standard
  • Monitor whitelisted providers for compliance with the Acceptable Ads Standard
  • Pause or discontinue whitelisting in cases of non-compliance


The Acceptable Ads Standard

Some of the criteria are mentioned below. The exact list of standards as defined by Acceptable Ads can be found here.

  • Ads should not interrupt the continuous browsing experience -- ads must be placed on top, side or below the primary content
  • Ads should be clearly identified “advertisement” or its equivalent
  • All ads that are placed above the fold1 must not occupy in total > 15% of the visible portion of the web page. If placed below the fold, ads must not occupy in total > 25% of the visible portion of the webpage


What’s Next

The set of acceptable ads standard is a solid first step towards restoring the delicate balance between publisher content monetization and the end-user experience. We can expect it to evolve as it expands to include different advertising formats and mediums -- the Acceptable Ads Committee has recently announced new acceptable ads criteria for mobile.

With global digital ad spending still trending upward, a world of profitable opportunity awaits advertisers and publishers who want to market and monetize their adblock users.

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1According to Wikipedia, it is the portion of the webpage that is visible without scrolling.  

DISCLAIMER: Although we make every effort to be objective, Blockthrough+PageFair works with publishers to measure the impact of adblocking and monetize their adblock audience. Our adblock recovery technology is the only turnkey solution in the market that gets a publisher’s programmatic stack to serve acceptable ads-compliant creatives (meeting Acceptable Ads’ strict criteria) to adblock users at scale.


Alicia Chin

Written by Alicia Chin