COALITION FOR BETTER ADS
Q: What is the Coalition for Better Ads?
A: The Coalition for Better Ads (“Coalition”), of which the News Media Alliance is a member, is a global cross-industry initiative to improve consumers’ experience with online advertising. It was launched in September 2016 by leading international trade associations and companies involved in media and online advertising. The primary focus of the Coalition is to leverage consumer insights and cross-industry expertise to develop and implement new global standards, called the “Better Ads Standards,” for online advertising that address consumer expectations. Through these Better Ads Standards, the Coalition has been seeking to address consumers’ frustration with ads that disrupt their experience, interrupt content and slow the speed of browsing, and lastly – by proxy- the ad blocking problem.
Q: What are the Coalition’s “Better Ads Standards”?
A: The “Better Ads Standards” for desktop and mobile web environments, based on testing in North America and an initial phase of testing in Europe, were released in March 2017. The initial “Better Ads Standards” are based on comprehensive research in which consumers were asked to comparatively rank different ad experiences presented to them while they read online articles. More than 25,000 consumers rated 104 ad experiences for desktop and mobile web.
The Coalition’s research identified the ad experiences in both North America and Europe that ranked lowest across a range of user experience factors, and that were most highly-correlated with an increased propensity for consumers to adopt ad blockers. The Coalition developed Better Ads Standards that correspond with the ad experiences that fell beneath consumers’ threshold of acceptability.
Four types of desktop web ads fell beneath the threshold of the Better Ads Standards: pop-up ads (with and without countdown), auto-play video ads with sound, prestitial ads with countdown, and large sticky ads (sticky 970×250 ad on the bottom and sticky 580×400 ad on the bottom).
Eight types of mobile web ads fell beneath the threshold of the Better Ads Standards: pop-up ads (with and without countdown), prestitial ads (with and without countdown), ads with density greater than 30% (50% single-column ad density, 35% single-column ad density, 30% single-column ad density), flashing animated ads, auto-play video ads with sound, poststitial ads with countdown, full-screen scroll over ads, and large sticky ads (on the bottom).
Q: Will the Coalition’s “Better Ads Standards” evolve?
A: In its initial phase, the Coalition has tested consumer preferences in the U.S., United Kingdom, Germany, Spain and Italy. The Coalition’s roadmap includes plans to conduct additional research on desktop web, mobile web and other environments across various regions, including further testing in Europe, North America, Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
Q: Will the “Better Ads Standards” be enforced?
A: On February 15, 2018, the Coalition will roll out the Better Ads Experience Program, a voluntary initiative for industry participants to improve the online ad experience for consumers and promote marketplace adoption of the Better Ads Standards. The Better Ads Experience Program will certify web publishers who agree not to use the most disruptive ads, as identified in the Standards, and will accredit browsers and advertising technology companies who will assess publishers’ compliance with the standards and filter digital ads based on the Standards.
“BETTER ADS EXPERIENCE” PROGRAM
Q: What is the proposed “Better Ads Experience” Program?
A: The “Better Ads Experience” Program was developed to ensure that the Coalition for Better Ads maintains leadership and ownership over the “Better Ads Standards,” including compliance assessment and enforcement.
Q: Which players are expected to participate in the Program?
A: In the first instance, the Program’s membership will be open to publishers and browser manufacturers, such as Google and Microsoft.
Q: Will joining the Program ensure protection from any browser that is filtering based on non-compliance with the “Better Ads Standards”?
A: Browser manufacturers who decide to join the Program would be empowered to enforce the “Better Ads Standards” by filtering (understood as blocking, filtering, or other obstruction of ad delivery) non-compliant ads, but they will not be allowed to filter ads for any company certified under the Program’s requirements.
Q: Will the Program allow browser manufacturers to block all ads from a publisher in case of non-compliance with the “Better Ads Standards”?
A: Browser manufacturers are to implement any filtering in a manner that would avoid capturing those advertisements that are compliant with the Standards, if such an approach is both reasonably practicable on a technical basis and would not result in material impairment of the user experience.
Taking into account feedback from browser manufacturers on viability of rolling out such an inclusive solution, it is highly likely that browser manufacturers would block all ads from the websites that are found to be non-compliant, since technical tests carried out to-date have shown that algorithmically detecting compliant vs. non-compliant ads is computationally challenging and would have dramatically negative impacts on performance (detection can take place only after the ads load, so ads would appear and then be removed).
Q: What will be the cost of joining the Program?
A: The Coalition, on February 15, will open enrollment for its Better Ads Experience Program for publishers. Enrollment by each interested publisher allows the company and its domains to be included in the Program’s register. Initial publisher registration will be free of charge until at least July 1. The Coalition will be evaluating other “value added” benefits publishers would receive by participating in the Program.
Q: Is Chrome the only browser that will participate in the “Better Ads Experience” Program?
A: At this point in time, only Google has announced plans for introducing the browser filtering feature. Google announced that beginning on February 15, 2018, Chrome will remove all ads from sites that have a “failing” status in the Ad Experience Report for more than 30 days. While Google is the only browser to have committed to joining the “Better Ads Experience” Program thus far, Microsoft, whose share in the global browsers’ market is significant, has joined the Coalition.
CHROME FILTERING FEATURE
Q: What will the Chrome filtering feature do?
A: In the case of a detected non-compliance with the “Better Ads Standards,” the feature would block ads on the website in question.
Q: How are websites going to be reviewed?
A: Websites are periodically re-reviewed, but Google does not comment on the specifics of the review process.
The list of annoying ad experiences is different for desktop and mobile environments, as per the “Better Ads Standards”. Because of this, pages are reviewed on both the desktop and mobile versions of your site, and a review status for each environment will appear in the Ad Experience Report.
Google recommends publishers periodically check the Ad Experience Report and/or set up monitoring for their own sites. The Ad Experience Report API is a publicly available and open API that provides a list of all domains that the Ad Experience Report has identified as being in “warning” or “failing” status. The API lets developers build applications that interact directly with the Ad Experience Report.
Q: How can publishers check compliance of a website with the “Better Ads Standards” through the “Ad Experience Report”?
A: The Ad Experience Report is a new tool in Search Console where publishers can see if they are at risk for Chrome filtering. If the domain is in a “warning” or “failing” state, then the report shows the annoying or harmful (e.g. malware) experiences that have been found with videos and screenshots.
The Ad Experience Report may list ad experiences on your site that violate the Better Ads Standards.
In addition to ad experiences specified in the Better Ads Standards, the Report also identifies abusive ad experiences.
Q: How can publishers verify how a specific ad format is currently interpreted by the Chrome filtering feature?
A: Questions regarding adherence of specific ads to the “Better Ads Standards” can be submitted to the Ad Experience Report Forum. The forum can be reached via this link or via the Web Tools Help page.
Q: Will publishers be given time to become compliant with the new standards?
A: The Coalition has adopted a phase-in of the Program to give publishers some time to learn about the standards and take the necessary steps to free up their sites of ads that do not meet the standards. We understand that Google has agreed to this phase-in with its implementation of ad blocking within Chrome. Publishers’ sites will either pass or fail based on the pages assessed and whether those pages meet the standards set by the Coalition. Beginning in mid-February – with implementation of ad blocking within Chrome – a failing website would be one that has more than 7.5 percent of its assessed pages containing ads that do not meet the Better Ad Standards. This 7.5 percent of assessed pages decreases to 2.5 percent over a six-month period (August 2018) when the 2.5 percent threshold becomes permanent.
Q: How do I ensure compliance with the “Better Ads Standards,” as well as avoid any repercussions pertaining to the expected Chrome filtering and in the future, ensure compliance with the “Better Ads Experience” Program?
A: Review the “Better Ads Standards” against your own ad experiences.
For comparison, the Coalition’s research paper “Determining a Better Ads Standard Based on User Experience Data” (pp. 30-46) includes links to all desktop and mobile web experiences tested in the course of the research undertaken to define the Standards.
Review the “Better Ads Experience” Program framework.
Check Ad Experience Report open API to monitor compliance.
Change ad experiences from non-compliant to compliant ones. One can, for instance, take note of advice given in the Best practices guide of Google, which can be accessed here.
Stay up-to-date with developments regarding the Coalition for Better Ads and rollout of the “Better Ads Experience” Program:
– through the Coalition for Better Ads website
– by remaining in contact with the News Media Alliance
The Alliance appreciates the support of the Coalition for Better Ads and IAB Europe in the development of this FAQ
Paul Boyle is the Senior Vice President of Public Policy at News Media Alliance.