How are IAB’s DEAL and LEAN Programs Impacting Adtech?

It’s generally accepted that the rise of ad blocking has been a response to ad practices  which ignore consumer experience and that it was on us as an industry to change.  According to BI Intelligence, ad blocking software is approaching 200 million users and the numbers are expected to continue increasing. In response, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) has developed two initiatives to improve online and mobile advertising practices.

The first one is the LEAN Ads program, which was launched in October of last year. LEAN stands for Light, Encrypted, Ad Choice Support, Non-Invasive. This program is set to address the reasons consumers are using ad blockers in the first place. By doing this, the program is not aimed at overhauling advertising practices and placements  entirely, but rather an attempt to create a different set of standards to provide choice for marketers, content providers, and consumers. The IAB Tech Lab recommends publishers to take advantage of this program to decrease the effects of ad blocking.

The second initiative is the DEAL process which was launched in March of this year. DEAL stands for Detect ad blocking, in order to initiate a conversation, Explain the value exchange that advertising enables, Ask for changed behavior in order to maintain an equitable exchange and Lift restrictions or Limit access in response to consumer choice.

This process is designed to give publishers the opportunity to have a “conversation” with users about the importance of advertising to free content and open the door for transparency and meaningful dialogue with visitors using ad blockers.

There are seven different tactics described in this process, each with a varying risk and benefit profile:

  • Notice

  • Access Denial

  • Tiered Experience

  • Payments from Visitors

  • Ad Reinsertion

  • Payment to Ad Blocker Companies

  • Payments to Visitors

 Out of these tactics, payment to ad blocker companies may have the most serious ramifications. Many industry leaders are afraid that payment for inclusion onto some ad blocker whitelists may motivate users to migrate to more stringent ad blockers that do not allow any whitelisting, resulting in more damage to the industry overall.

Although the DEAL process is said to be a more in-depth course of action than LEAN, some industry leaders are afraid that it still may not be enough to combat mobile ad blocking, which is also on the rise.

Both initiatives give consumers more choice and are definitely pushing advertisers and publishers in the right direction when communicating with users. According to a recent survey, 30% of users were willing to turn off their ad blocker if they were denied access to content. While 28% said they would do so if there were only non-intrusive ads online.

Many publishers are now actively using these initiatives and succeeding. For example, is giving its users two options: The first is to simply add to their adblocker’s whitelist so that they can view ads. In return, when viewing ads, promises to keep the ads as “polite” as possible by only showing standard display ads. The other option is for users to subscribe to the publisher’s ad-free version of the site, which would cost them $1 per week.

Other publishers such as The Guardian are displaying a message to readers that politely informs them that ads fund its journalism. The publisher is also steering ad blocker users toward its membership page.

The key for adtech is to develop solutions surrounded by the user experience. Google has been discussing a strategy to serve ads with a minimal impact on browser speed in hopes of reducing consumers’ desire to seek out ad blockers.

IAB’s two initiatives have definitely shifted the product offering of adtech providers and the way publishers are able to engage users. Forbes Chief Product Officer Lewis DVorkin reports that 42.3 percent of desktop visitors who were asked to, have either disabled their blockers or whitelisted With those blockers disabled, the publisher delivered 63 million ad impressions that would have otherwise not been seen.

As long as customer experience is at the forefront, we as an industry can shrink this problem called ad blocking.

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