Advertising Bureau, Beset by Rise of Blockers, Offers Lean Ad Principles

The Interactive Advertising Bureau, fighting a tide of consumers who are sick of advertisements bogging down web pages, announced a new response to the problem this week. It came with a little humble pie.

The argument in favor of using online ad blockers is becoming more compelling, and the Interactive Advertising Bureau knows it.

With the bevy of trackers, weight-loss ads, and pop-overs turning the process of reading an article into something akin to running an obstacle course, IAB is making a new pledge to internet users: IAB members will better balance their own financial interests with what users want.

“We messed up. As technologists, tasked with delivering content and services to users, we lost track of the user experience,” wrote Scott Cunningham, IAB’s senior vice president of technology and ad operations.

In his blog post, Cunningham announced a new approach from the bureau’s IAB Tech Lab, something it calls the L.E.A.N. Ads program. (L.E.A.N. stands for Light, Encrypted, Ad choice supported, and Non-invasive.)

The program launches as ad-blocking software is becoming more common, both within web browsers and on Apple’s iOS software, which now supports ad-blocking tools. On top of this, companies such as Facebook, Google, and Snapchat, along with Apple itself, have begun building out native publishing options that get around the tendency toward ad-heavy mobile pages.

For IAB, which represents the companies that place the ads and trackers on those pages, the L.E.A.N Ads program represents a full-throttle response encouraging lightweight advertising that respects privacy and targets thoughtfully, so consumers are not repeatedly hit by ads for products that they’ve already purchased.

“L.E.A.N. Ads do not replace the current advertising standards many consumers still enjoy and engage with while consuming content on our sites across all IP-enabled devices. Rather, these principles will guide an alternative set of standards that provide choice for marketers, content providers, and consumers,” Cunningham wrote.

Arthur Coleman, vice president of product for Acxiom Innovation Labs, who works closely with Cunningham on the issue of ad blocking, noted the move is an intelligent reaction to a problem that threatens the industry’s growth.

“First and foremost, we applaud the IAB’s initiative, as we believe it moves us in the right direction as an industry. It recognizes that what is going on here is an open negotiation, via Adam Smith’s ‘invisible hand,’ between sellers and consumers of advertising. Ad blockers are nothing less than the consumers opening statement in that negotiation,” Coleman wrote in a blog post.

The Register‘s Shaun Nichols, who is skeptical (“This could all be a complete waste of time,” he wote), noted that IAB’s suggestion that the initiative would encourage encryption could have a positive effect by improving online security for users.

“The encrypted bit is important because it means the rest of the webpage can be encrypted too over HTTPS, improving people’s privacy online,” Nichols wrote.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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