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The IAB says “We Messed Up” – Ad Blocking and the User Experience

By Madison Logic Team

Too Many Cooks” is a funny video that debuted on Comedy Central and has since gone viral. The video is a parody of 1980s-90s sit-coms, comedy shows, and soap opera intros. It goes on far too long, introducing far too many characters until it descends into a surreal, distorted narrative that’s more “Friday the 13th” than “Full House.”
In some sense this is what the IAB is admitting to when they say: “We messed up.” They unlocked the floodgates for ads to jam web pages, slow down performance, and distract users from what was the original intention behind the web to begin with: an elegant way to distribute information.
In a statement on the IAB website, Scott Cunningham, SVP of Technology and Ad Operations, states the organization’s good intentions. “Digital Advertising became the foundation of an economic engine that, still now, sustains the free and democratic World Wide Web.” He also admits that the organization may have gone too far. “Looking back now, our scraping of dimes may have cost us in dollars and consumer loyalty…we were so good at it we over-engineered the capabilities of the plumbing laid down by, well, ourselves.”
This amounts to an open admission by the IAB that the standards they set down drove users to block ads—the very engine that drives the web as we know it. But more than an admission of guilt, the statement goes on to claim that it’s the IAB’s problem to fix.
As of October 15, the IAB Tech Lab is launching the L.E.A.N. Ads Program. L.E.A.N. stands for Light, Encrypted, Ad choice supported, Non-invasive ads.
L.E.A.N. does not replace the original standards. Instead it provides marketers, publishers and users an alternate set of rules concentrating on among other things: frequency caps for retargeting, making sure a user is targeted before making a purchase but never after, and controlling the number of ads that can appear on a page. At its core the program is meant to supplement the user experience not interrupt it.
Essentially the L.E.A.N. program is putting the user experience first with the understanding that intrusive, irrelevant, and poorly targeted ads were the impetus for ad blocking in the first place.
L.E.A.N. is just the beginning. As ads slim down their digital footprint, relevance and targeting will only increase in importance. B2b marketers are a jump ahead their b2c peers with Account Based Marketing (ABM), even more so for those marketers driving ABM with intent data. When ads are relevant, served at key moments in the buyer’s journey, and supply useful information, they will not be distractions from the user’s online experience, they will enhance it.

Madison Logic Team

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