What Are Acceptable Ads? A Crash Course

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The AAX team attended the Digiday Publishing Summit in Key Biscayne Florida with a particular mission: instead of talking about AAX, we wanted to take a step back and discuss the Acceptable Ads initiative.

But in order to get the full picture, and understand how ad blockers have, over the years, evolved into ad filterers, we need to start at the beginning.

How Did We Get Here?

What are the causes of ad blocking? If you ask an ad blocker, you'll usually hear something along the lines of "There are too many ads."

But when you dig deep, exploring the causes of these "too many ads," you'll find the culprit is a supply and demand imbalance that has long posed a challenge to premium publishers.

What happens in a marketplace when there's a supply and demand imbalance is that the seller—in this case, the publisher—finds themselves in a weakened position. That means that the buyer, the advertiser, moves into a position of strength. This has lead to a squeeze on the publisher: the publisher has to serve more ads, bigger ads, and more intrusive ads.

It was exactly this dynamic that lead to a dramatic increase in ad blockers.

Ad blocking is the Biggest Boycott In Human History –Doc Searls

At a conference like Digiday Publishing, ad blocking is always the elephant in the room. And in this case it's not just a question of standing out. It's also a question of sheer size: the scope of ad blocking is massive.

  • One billion people worldwide use ad blockers.
  • In the USA, a publisher can expect 15-20% of their visitors to have an ad blocker.
  • In places like Germany and France, the percentage ad blocking visitors reaches 45%.

These numbers are astounding.

But there's another number to consider: 90% of ad blockers users can receive ads.

Solutions To Ad Blocking and Benefits To Publishers

When an ad blocker is installed, the ad block user is given an option: to opt in and consent to be served acceptable ads. The fact that 90% choose this option speaks to the fact that ad block users don't hate all ads—just the kind of invasive, flashy ads that prompted the mass boycott of ad blocking.

It also speaks to the particulars of the ad blocking demographic. These users are young, highly educated, tech savvy, and index high for consuming media online. In other words, they understand the balance of the ecosystem relies on advertising, and that a browsing experience can actually be augmented by the presence of respectful, non-intrusive ads—by the presence, in other words, of Acceptable Ads.

The criteria for what determines an Acceptable Ad is defined by the Acceptable Ads Committee, a fully independent third party committee made up of industry insiders, privacy organizations, users, consumers, publishers. The criteria is straightforward: an ad can be deemed Acceptable if it

  • is a static banner instead of an animated banner
  • there is no video present
  • the ads don't represent more than 15% above the fold…
  • …or 25% below the fold

Ultimately, what the Acceptable Ads initiative—along with AAX, an ad exchange that serves only Acceptable Ads—is committed to is achieving is a balance between consumer experience, browsing experience, and content monetization.


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