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New Digital Formats Promise To Be Lean Not Mean

There is an ongoing problem within the digital ecosystem. The concept of value exchange has become lost on a large portion of internet users. Content and experiences have been free for so long that advertising can feel like it is sullying an individual’s digital experience rather than facilitating it.

Thus, adblockers are viewed by many as a deserved and protective force field against advertising, whereas they are really the equivalent of sneaking into the cinema without paying. To be fair, to the average internet user, the sometimes-annoying experience of pop ups, flashing ads, and obtrusive interstitials does make downloading an adblocking app understandable.

Creating a better ad experience

The Coalition for Better Ads recently undertook the mammoth task in Europe and North America of understanding what annoys people about digital advertising and conversely, what constitutes a positive digital experience. They surveyed 25,000 internet users to gain a deeper understanding as to what makes an ad acceptable and what makes you want to smash your device in a fit of rage. The aim was to 1) find a one stop shop solution to deliver a positive online environment, where ads are a seamless, unobtrusive part of the experience, and 2) to reduce the use of adblockers.

The solution is the IAB New Standard Ad Unit Portfolio which covers display, native, video VR, AR, and emoji ads! The lean formats are flexible and their foundation lies in creating a positive advertising experience, which requires different sizes, changes to publisher sites, multiple resolutions, and allowing seamless transition across multiple devices and screens. The new lean flexible ad is based on aspect instead of fixed pixel specifications. This allows ad units to adjust to the device or screen size, as well as integrating responsive website design. The message and impact of an ad is not lost with these new formats, which have been extensively tested by working groups to produce lean adverts that deliver a positive non-disruptive experience.

Some short term pain

As the big names in the online publishing world make necessary changes to test these new lean ad formats, it will be exciting to see whether there is an increase in engagement and if a decrease in the use of adblockers* is recorded because of a better user experience as the formats are rolled out. But there are still issues to be considered for our clients. The new Lean IAB standard formats will not be immediately compatible with all suppliers, or within programmatic offerings, which will mean higher creative costs due to requiring two suites of creative per campaign. It is also another knock for smaller publishers who will now have to re-assess their website design and test the new formats, as they scramble to be GDPR compliant at the same time.

Of course, a more enjoyable user experience which results in the decline of adblockers is a win, but an awkward conversation with the online community will still be needed to explain that nothing in life is free, so suck it up and enjoy the ads.

*Adblocker usage in Ireland is reported to be 39%, according to Pagefair, whereas Red C, commissioned by IAB, reported the number to be 25%.