IAB logo via IAB
In the wake of alarming ad blocking statistics and publisher trends, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) has completely reversed its initial stance on the growing ad blocking movement. Earlier last month, at its 2015 MIXX Conference (September 28-29th), SVP Scott Cunningham called the ad blocking movement “highway robbery,” and implied that ad blockers aren’t playing fair (Adweek). Additionally, the IAB characterized ad blocking as “a war between engineers” with a business model that needed to be removed.
Only a few short weeks later, the IAB debuts its new digital advertising initiative, LEAN, prefacing its rollout with a message: “We Messed Up.” LEAN, which stands for “light, encrypted, ad choice supported, non-invasive ads,” is a brand new set of guidelines from the IAB that addresses the importance of digital ad user experience. These new directives won’t supersede existing advertising standards. Instead, IAB’s LEAN aims to help marketers and content providers establish advertising standards that are conducive to a favorable consumer experience. Cunningham writes
We were so clever and so good at [targeting users with ever-heftier advertisements] that we over-engineered the capabilites of the plumbing laid down by, well, ourselves. This steamrolled the users, depleted their devices, and tried their patience.
In a conscientious effort to improve overall user experience, LEAN will address such aspects of ad tech including the volume of ads per page, user targeting both before and after sales, capping retargeting, and more citing the need to be “just as good, if not better, at moderation” vs. reach and scale.
Spearheaded by the release of iOS9 which featured Apple’s first operating system complete with ad blocking tech, advertisers became acutely aware of the usage of ad blockers. Ad blocker downloads topped the charts shortly after Apple’s iOS9 release prompting backlash from several publishers (New York Times). Several studies released at the tail end of 2014 and 2015 H1 supported the ad blocking crisis including PageFair and Adobe’s joint study noting the 48% growth of ad blocker usage in the U.S. and projected $41.4 billion dollar loss of revenue in 2016 (already $22 billion in 2015).
In addition to IAB’s new LEAN initiative, the rise of ad blocking has prompted many marketers to search for other viable advertising channels including native, branded, sponsored content, and influencer marketing. For more information on advertiser alternatives to ad blocking, check out our post here and also “How To Beat Ad Blocking With Sponsored Content & Influencer Marketing.”