LEAN Ads: The IAB's Best Practices for Digital Advertisers and Publishers

To adblock or not to adblock? More and more internet users are answering this question with a resounding “yes.” Of course, you know that adblocking can threaten your revenue and prevent you from providing quality content free of charge. Unfortunately, your readers are more concerned with slow websites, malware, and intrusive ads.

In the fall of 2016, Anatomy Media released a study that stated 2/3 of young millennials (age 18-24) use adblockers on at least one device. 43% of these said they did so to avoid intrusive ads, and a whopping 63% confirmed that video ads that play automatically were their main reason for using ad blockers. It suggests that negative user experience is a driving factor in pushing users to pick up ad blockers. Anatomy Media puts it, “User experience is God.”

These findings are consistent with those of the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), which released an adblocking study in July 2016. The study states that 26% of users surveyed use ad blockers on at least one device. But, more alarming for publishers is the 17% that claimed they were on the verge of using ad blockers. The IAB gives us hope: 2/3 of those surveyed were open to stop adblocking. To that, the IAB puts forth suggestions for companies to encourage them to do so.

Enter the IAB and LEAN ads.

The IAB recognizes that ad blockers cost companies serious revenue. However, they also acknowledge the very real gripes that users have about ads on websites. The IAB's LEAN specs involve scaling back and modifying ads to improve user experience while maintaining the ad revenue necessary to keep content free.

Ads are often the first to be blamed for a website’s slow load time. To address that, the IAB states the importance of keeping ads light. Companies can keep their ads light by limiting the files sizes and adhering to strict data call guidelines. By keeping ads light, companies can improve the load speed of their website and thus the experience of their visitors.

The IAB LEAN specs also stress the importance of preventing malware from infecting ads. This is easier said than done, as “malvertisers” often run clean ads on various sites to gain trust before starting to run infected ads.

Companies can prevent infected ads from displaying on their site by ensuring both their website and ad server support HTTPS. HTTPS is an SSL-encrypted data transfer protocol between a website and a browser. Implementing HTTPS on your site and ad server protects you and your readers.

AdChoices Supported

AdChoices is an initiative that seeks to give users more privacy by allowing them to opt out of targeted ads. This is another common reason people decide to block ads -- they don’t like being tracked. Ads can tailor themselves to readers based on browsing history and behavior. AdChoices places an icon on each ad that, when clicked, turns off targeted advertising. Learn more about AdChoices and sign up through Quantcast.


Invasive ads get between a reader and the content they came to see. They include ads that obscure content, videos that expand and play automatically, and copious amounts of ads peppering an article and interrupting the flow. The IAB asks companies to use common sense when deciding how ads will present themselves. Annoying ads drive readers away and increase the likelihood that they come back armed with an adblocker. IAB LEAN ads that occupy the banner and sides of your website without getting between readers and their content are ideal.
The solution is better ads.

The IAB has found that users are less likely to use adblockers or whitelist websites when their experience is not interrupted. Users want to be able to access sites and enjoy content without feeling slowed down or bombarded by advertisements. LEAN ads are one of the tools available for publishers to serve ads without interrupting the user experience.

Both the IAB and publishers recognize that adblock users do have legitimate gripes. Ad blocking itself is a symptom of a larger problem. Ads have gotten out of hand, and consumers have reacted accordingly.

It’s not impossible for publishers to thrive -- it only takes an awareness of the problem, and actions to address it. Publishers can get their ads back under control by adhering to the IAB’s LEAN specs, and show their users that they do care about the user’s experience.

With that in mind, the future for online advertisements and the revenue they will create looks bright.

To learn more about Admiral's adblock recovery, paywall and subscription management, email newsletter and social follower growth modules, or privacy and consent CMP, request a demo today.

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