The CBA: Setting Standards for Better Digital Ads

By Emily Isle (General Manager – Digital)

photo-1517245386807-bb43f82c33c4 v3

Some of the fundamental principles of media and marketing have been lost in the digital race. Incorrect goals and incentives have misdirected media buying, and therefore supply, toward clicks and low impact impressions as opposed to true reach and measures of consumer intent. One of the most detrimental impacts of this has been a negative consumer experience of digital ads. Impression buying without quality control spurred a market of pop-up ads, invasive interstitials, and photo album articles forcing users to navigate through ten pages of content with a new ad loaded for each over-hyped image.

Smart digital media buyers and brand marketers alike have leveraged their dollars to demand better quality inventory and native content experiences – but it can be hard to turn the tides without a global force. This is where the Coalition for Better Ads, the CBA, comes into play.

The CBA is a group of leading international trade associations and companies joining forces with a collective goal to improve the consumer experience of digital ads. The Coalition, which includes huge digital players like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and P&G, came together to identify and set clear global standards around better ad experiences.

The first step to identifying was testing ad experiences, so the CBA established a panel of over 25,000 consumers for broad reaching statistically sound results. The testing identified the ads consumers least prefer, which are also the ads that trigger ad blocker adoption. Off this research, the Coalition developed The Better Ads Standards to guide publishers away from using these invasive ad formats. Twelve ad experiences across desktop and mobile were identified, including pop-ups, auto-play video with sound-on, and invasive pre-stitials. If you’re curious, you can see all twelve ad types at the CBA’s website here.

The Better Ad Standards launched across the United States and Europe in February of this year, backed by the Internet Advertising Bureau who helped prepare publishers for the change. Google also launched their Google Chrome filter in the US & Europe the same month. With the filter, the Chrome browser blocks all ads on sites that have repeat and significant violation of the Better Ads Standards. This means Chrome will not just block the invasive ads, but will block all ads from publishers who repeat offend. The power Google has in regulating in this manner is questionable given their own ad revenue incentives, but the result will no doubt be reduced invasive ads for consumers.

So what does this mean for New Zealand, you ask? The Better Ad Standards regulation and Google Chrome filter are set to roll out in New Zealand within this year. Depending on the site, Chrome users can make up 40-60% of the audience for New Zealand publishers, so blocking on this browser will have a significant impact on reach and a publisher’s bottom line. This, of course, will only happen if a site repeat offends. Locally, IABNZ is an affiliate member of the Coalition and supports the Better Ads Standards, so is also a resource for sites  preparing for the change.  The organisation recommends publishers work towards meeting the Standards as quickly as possible to ensure they are doing their part to improve consumer ad experience.

Although introducing standards can be disruptive for publishers and advertisers alike, it is an important step to re-steer digital advertising in the direction of true reach and a positive consumer impact. However, it’s key to keep in mind that ad formats can only take a brand message so far – it is also important that the messaging within the non-invasive formats is relevant to the consumer. Quality standards should consider placement, targeting, and relevant messaging to direct back to the fundamental principles of impactful media. By anchoring our digital planning in these principles, we achieve effective ads in tandem with a sustainable consumer experience.

Date: August 07, 2018