Last year, Google helped form the Coalition For Better Ads, an organization intended to develop new global standards for online ads that improve user experience.
This March, based on research derived from surveys of 25,000 consumers, which sought to identify the least preferred ad types, the Coalition published an initial draft of Better Ads Standards for desktop and mobile.
Among the ad experiences that the Better Ads Standards determined “fall beneath a threshold of consumer acceptability” are pop-ups, auto-playing video ads with sound, large sticky ads and full-screen scrollover ads.
Of course, publishing a list of bad ad types and getting advertisers and publishers to stop using them are two very different things, and that’s where Google comes in. In April, the Wall Street Journal reported that the search giant was planning to add an ad-blocking feature to Chrome, a significant move given that Google, which generates tens of billions of dollars a year in revenue from digital ads, has more than a few incentives not to add an ad blocker to its browser.
In June, while announcing a new monetization offering that works in conjunction with its Google Contributor offering, Sridhar Ramaswamy, Google’s SVP of Ads & Commerce, confirmed the report: “we plan to have Chrome stop showing ads (including those owned or served by Google) on websites that are not compliant with the Better Ads Standards starting in early 2018.”
Ramaswamy also announced the Ad Experience Report, a tool that “helps publishers understand how the Better Ads Standards apply to their own websites” by providing screenshots and videos of bad ad experiences that Google has identified on their sites.
Google’s initial findings
Now, with 2018 fast approaching, Google is starting to identify sites with problems. According to Scott Spencer, Google’s Director of Product Management for Sustainable Ads, “In just two months, 140,000 publishers worldwide have viewed the [Ad Experience Report].”
What is Google finding? On desktop, pop-up ads are responsible for 97% of the Better Ads Standards violations. On mobile, pop-ups are still a problem, accounting for over half of violations, but high ad density is responsible for just over a fifth of violations.
Spencer says “Our early reporting shows that most issues are not coming from mainstream publishers, like daily newspapers or business publications. They come from smaller sites, who often don’t have the same access to quality control resources as larger publishers.”
But there are a few notable exceptions, including Forbes and the Los Angeles Times. Both received “failing” status from the Ad Experience Report. Other high-profile sites that received warnings include CBS News, Kiplinger, Lifehacker, and UK Independent.
While Google is still working through its plans for enforcement once Chrome’s ad blocker has launched, as Digiday’s Lucia Moses notes, “One aspect of the plan that may raise alarms with publishers is that Google hasn’t ruled out filtering all of a failing site’s ads — not just the offending ads.” That, for obvious reasons, does not sit well with publishers.
For that reason, publishers who haven’t already done so would be wise to see if their websites have been reviewed by the Ad Experience Report, although it’s worth noting that of the approximately 100,000 sites Google has reviewed so far, less than 1% (700) are said to need corrective action.