Advertising trade bodies unite for ad-supported internet improvements

Ad trade bodies unify to ask for ad-supported internet improvement

In a move designed to improve the experience of an ad-supported internet, the heads of the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s), Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) have come together to ask the Coalition for Better Ads (CBA) to adopt a system that would stem the tide of poor ad formats.

In a letter sent to CBA — the unified leaders, that combined represent 2,400 brands, agencies, publishers, and technology companies — proposed that an industry-wide self-regulatory system be implemented.

Called 'The Better Ads Experience Program', the framework would encourage companies involved in digital advertising to comply with digital ad standards created by the CBA.

They also asked that internet browser companies and other “delivery technology companies” be involved to help the CBA enforce compliance.

The CBA counts the trade bodies and several tech giants such as Google (which has already committed to block non CBA-compliant standards next year) and Facebook as well as major brands including Procter & Gamble and Unilever as members.

At the root of the issue are eight mobile and four desktop formats that, according to CBA research, are considered by consumers to be “annoying, interruptive or obstructive.” These formats correlate directly with the rise of consumer adoption and use of third-party ad blockers.

Another reason the ad trade body leaders have united around the issue is to flank companies like Apple, which has implemented intelligent tracking prevention to its Safari 11 browser to stem retargeting.

“We already are seeing such chaos develop, with Apple recently imposing its own heavy-handed cookie standards that risk disrupting the valuable advertising ecosystem that funds much of today’s digital content and services," the letter stated.

"This private, walled-garden approach to internet advertising is untenable. Imposition of these fragmented ‘regulatory’ regimes by dominant platforms will force consolidation among the makers and marketers of media, and of the goods and services on which the media depend for support, and which in turn rely on the media for access to consumer markets.”

The trade leaders are looking to build on work the CBA has been conducting “to improve consumers’ experience with online advertising” and to “leverage cross-industry expertise to develop and implement new global standards for online advertising that address consumer expectations.”

The primary goal is to remove ambiguity in the marketplace and point the industry towards unified action, all of which will fall under the remit of the CBA.

In a recent UK study, OnAudience.com found that 39% of consumers in the region use adblockers and it has adversely affected publisher revenue to the tune of £2.9bn.

Globally, the loss of revenue from ad blocking hit $42bn in 2016.

Additionally, at the recent ANA Masters of Marketing conference, ANA chief executive Bob Liodice painted a particularly bleak picture of the industry, pointing out that more than half of Fortune 500 companies saw declining 2016 revenues despite an increase in media spend.

Ad blocking, brand safety and transparency have left the industry “unproductive, unsustainable, undesirable and untenable," he said, before rolling out a 12-point action plan to alleviate the most pressing problems, including ad blocking.

The full letter from the 4A’s, ANA and IAB can be found here.

Doug Zanger

Doug Zanger is the Americas editor for The Drum. He leads the Americas editorial team’s content activity in the growing region. Based in Portland, Oregon, he is committed to sharing the most meaningful stories that benefit the global industry and its people. A Minnesota native, Zanger has covered a wide range of brands, issues and personalities, including Aloe Blacc, Seu Jorge, Wendy Clark, Susan Credle, Dan Wieden, Jeff Goodby and more. Fiercely dedicated to diversity, equality and talent, he has interviewed several women in leadership roles through his Exceptional Women of the World podcast.

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