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IAB US moves to counter 'terrorist' ad blockers


By Ronan Shields, Digital Editor

October 16, 2015 | 4 min read

The IAB US has launched its LEAN ads programme in a bid to equip its members to deal with rising consumer adoption of ad blockers - outfits it labels 'economic terrorists' - advising publishers to adopt a dual approach of using detection technology, while opening up a dialogue with consumers.

LEAN stands for: Light; Encrypted; Ad choice supported; Non-invasive ads, and constitutes a series of principles it hopes will help guide the next phases of advertising standards for the digital supply chain across the world.

The guidelines don't replace earlier issued standards, rather the update provides an alternative set of principles offering choices for marketers, content providers, and consumers, according to the IAB.

This includes addressing the number of ads served on a page, sensibly capping the number of times a user is served with the same ad, plus posing those that use ad block software with the option of paying for content, or simply deny their services to them.

Speaking with The Drum on the sidelines of yesterday's (15 October) IAB Engage conference, hosted in London, Randall Rothenberg, chief executive of the IAB US, described the principles as thus: "Detection; Notice; Choice and Restraint."

He also explained how the trade body first started auditing the effects of ad blocking among its membership six years ago. Up until six months ago there was little negative effect, and those that were affected tended to be publishers with tech and gamer sites which are primarily geared towards younger male audiences.

However, duing the last six months most IAB members are now seeing "significant issues", according to Rothenberg.

This has in part led to the extensive of the coverage of the matter in both the trade and mainstream media in recent months plus fuelled by the rise in ad block detection compaines, such as Sourcepoint.

To gauge the reasons driving the increased adoption in recent months, the UK arm of the trade body has started to engage with ad blockers themselves, and is now seeking to educate audiences on the economics behind web content that is free at the point of consumption.

Also speaking with The Drum was IAB UK chief executive Guy Phillipson who recounted a recent survey of the general public which revealed that 56 per cent of respondents didn't understand the value exchange behind free content.

This is why both the US and UK arms of the trade body are now instructing members to educate their readership on the value exchange of free content, on top of offering them a choice to go 'ad free', but in return for a fee.

The initative will also involve educating users that ad blocking companies - many of which espouse libertarian, and sometimes anti-capitalist values - are actually for-profit companies in many cases, according to Rothenberg.

"A lot of these companies are happy to rake in what revenue they can... when a lot of them are like inner city crack dealers," he said, further describing them as "economic terrorists" and "extortionsits".

The IAB's Phillipson also explained how trade body would soon conduct research exploring the impact of the measures described above, in terms of ad block users dumping the software.

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