What if every one of Google’s billion plus users of its market leading Chrome web browser had an adblocker? Now they do. As of February 15th, this scenario becomes a reality that needs to be understood and addressed by the world’s digital publishers and advertisers.
Traditional 3rd party adblocker usage has seen rapid growth in recent years with no signs of slowing down resulting in billions of dollars of lost ad revenue for publishers worldwide. Last summer, when Google announced that a future update of Chrome will automatically block certain ads by default, the industry began to speculate on intent and subsequent effects.
On February 13th, Chrome VP, Rahul Roy-Chowdhury released a brief, official statement that offered a glimpse into Google’s vision behind the move: “The browser for a web worth protecting”.
Highlighted is Google’s relationship with The Coalition For Better Ads, an independent organization of publishers, advertisers, and technology platforms that lists Facebook, Microsoft, GroupM, and the IAB among its members (disclosure: Admiral is a member of the Coalition). According to Roy-Chowdhury, the Coalition served as the architects behind the criteria used by Chrome to determine which ad formats will get filtered out. The critical first step for every publisher and advertiser is to understand the Coalition’s Better Ads Standards.
Admiral hosted an in-depth webinar alongside the Coalition and a number of its key publishing partners entitled “10 Things Top Publishers Are Doing to Prepare For Chrome’s Adblocker”. The webinar deck with links, video, and transcript are below:
Dan Rua: And to the webinar, 10 Things Top Publishers Are Doing To Prepare For Chrome’s ad blocker.
Dan Rua: The agenda for the webinar today, we’ve got a ton of material, so we’re going to go kind of fast. If you have questions, please ask them in the question bar of the Go To Webinar control panel.
Dan Rua: Our agenda, we’re going to do some quick panelist intros. We’re going to some background and Q&A. That’s really kind of to make sure everyone understands the terminology. What are we talking about when we talk about better ads, what are we talking about when we’re talking about the Chrome ad blocker. And then the meat of this is going to be the second half, which is what can publishers do to prepare, and what are publishers doing to prepare? And so that will be Q&A with the panel. And then we’ll wrap up with potentially open Q&A, assuming we still have time, and we’ll take questions from the audience for the panel.
Dan Rua: So just some real quick panelist intros. So myself, as I mentioned, I’m the CEO of Admiral. Admiral helps publishers worldwide size and solve their ad block losses
. So this is a topic near and dear to our hearts. We’re the largest in the category, we help over 12,000 publishers worldwide, and we’re excited to be a part of this. We actually apply the Better Ads standard ourselves, in deciding which publishers we help. And we’ll get into that a little bit later.
Dan Rua: Chuck Curran, if you could, give us a little background on yourself. Chuck is with us from the Coalition.
Chuck Curran: Yeah, hey. This is Chuck Curran, I’ve been working as counsel as Coalition for the past year, since the launch of the Better Ads standards, and happy to walk you all through the thinking and the reasoning and how the Coalition hopes that these can make a difference for consumers, and also make a difference for publishers in terms of something that’s useful for that dialogue with the consumer about whether or not you are delivering a Better Ads experience.
Dan Rua: Terrific, thanks Chuck. Thanks for joining us. Mike McCleod, from PGA Tour, just really a top a quality organization from a publishing standpoint, they run a great business there. Mike, could you introduce yourself a bit?
Mike McCleod: Yeah Dan, Dan and Chuck, and Max and everybody listening, glad to be with you today. As Dan said, I work for the PGA Tour. It’s the premier gold league on all the earth, as far I consider. And I’m responsible for the ad products that we put in our digital products, and then I also have a secondary responsibility for the dozen or so sort of SAAS platforms that we run in the background, Admiral being one of them, to help fulfill those advertising products.
Dan Rua: Perfect, thanks a lot Mike. And then as well we have Max Rybakov, he’ll give you a little more detail. Investing Channel has been a great partner of ours, they also happen to work with a large network of sites, and so it’s a different perspective we wanted to bring to this webinar, of not just managing a single site with Better Ads, but how do you deal with a bunch, and so, Max, give us a little more background.
Max Rybakov: Hi Dan, thanks for the introduction. Yeah, so I’m Max Rybakov, I kind of run product for Investment Channel, so we’re a network of about 250 publishers, so anything in terms of from a perspective of rolling this out across a large network. We’ve had those problems, I can kind of give little more insight into what that entails.
Dan Rua: Fantastic. Thanks everyone for the intros. And I did realize, I didn’t have this screen shared when I was calling for questions a second ago. So again, if you have questions, feel free to ask those through the GoTo Webinar control panel, and we’ll get to those towards the end.
Dan Rua: But let’s start with some background. And so the first question here, before we get to Chrome, and Google, and ad blocking, let’s just talk about what is the Coalition for Better Ads? And so, Chuck, if you could, give us a little background there.
Chuck Curran: So the Coalition is really an attempt to get the perspective of all the different parts of the ecosystem around how to define good and the bad. To get publishers, advertisers, agencies, ad tech, everybody to a common place where they understand and have a reference point for defining good and bad ad experiences.
Chuck Curran: The Coalition itself came together, really, with a couple of different goals. One of which is to solve to the issue of how does a publisher have a dialogue with the user who’s using an ad blocker? What can be said about having better ads, and how do we say this across industry? And secondly, how do we … it’s not the responsibility of just one part, or just publishers, or just agencies to solve to getting rid of the ad experiences that consumers say they dislike most. And the third kind of key point is, we wanted something that’s really done on a good and objective methodology that really has strong consumer research to listen to the voice of the consumer, so that we actually get data that solidly says on a region by region basis, “Hey, not all ad formats are bad, but there’s some that are really not only highly annoying, but also are really highly correlated with the desire by consumers to get ad blockers.” So how do we address those specific formats that the consumers dislike the most.
Dan Rua: Super. Super. And then I think that flows very well into the next question, which is what is the initial Better Ads standard? And I have a screenshot on the right that shows the ads that are identified as kind of bad ads, and the standard. I’d encourage others to kind of click the link and go on in to see what those are in detail, but Chuck, talk us through the initial Better Ads standard.
Chuck Curran: So really what you’re seeing is that this is the twelfth … it’s for mobile and desktop web, those are the first two ad environments tested by the Coalition using its research methodology. And that’s not all of the formats that were tested, these are the ones that, as I mentioned, which of the formats that are most annoying and most likely to cause ad blocking. And these really are the … there’s four types of desktop and eight types of mobile web experiences that were really beneath the standard of consumer acceptability.
Chuck Curran: So, I just want to reiterate that point, that the goal of the Coalition is to encourage innovation, and most ads work for consumers, it’s just a question of well, which ones don’t? And you can find out more on the website about the specifics of what was tested, and behind this, but the idea is that this is a common reference point for industry. So, you, as a publisher, don’t have to make it up, and talking to an agency say, “Look, this just isn’t what the consumer is asking for, it’s a bad ad format.” The standards provide that reference point for you in your dialogue.
Dan Rua: All right, super, thanks Chuck. I would share, just Admiral’s experience here. So Admiral is a member of the Coalition. We’re also a member of the IAB, and we’ll talk about that in a second. One of the things we face, so we had plenty of our publishers coming to us asking about this topic. And we had publishers coming to us that, frankly, had bad ad experiences. And we were making judgment calls on whether to work with them, and whether to help them, based upon what their ad experience looked like. And, to be honest, we don’t really want to be in the business of having to make a bunch of judgment calls. And so, this is an example of a standard that helps us be able to talk to our publishers, and publishers who come to us, and say, “Hey, listen, if number on we can help you kind of adhere to the Better Ads standard, and if you do that, then we’d love to help you size and solve your ad block losses.”
Dan Rua: And on that note, Chuck, I’m just going to give you a minute to just … some publishers come to us confusing the Chrome ad blocker with the Coalition standard, and I don’t know if you have a couple minutes on that topic.
Chuck Curran: Sure. So, as I said, these are standards that are developed for the use of everybody in industry, and they were intended for multiple uses, and Dan’s just mentioned one of those, that those of you who are publishers having dialogues with ad block users, this is intended to provide a tool for you for that dialogue.
Chuck Curran: We’ve also … there’s a lot of interest from the buy side in terms of well, how do we measure and reward, basically from scoring purposes, to recognize the sites that are offering the higher quality experiences, how can you get positive benefits by base lining? But obviously, we have sort of the elephant in the room, we have a big browser company that’s also using these initial standards to drive its analysis for our filtering application that it’s just rolling out. And here, what you’ll hear about the program is working on, obviously there may be multiple browsers that eventually adopt this. The Coalition’s focus is on having a program, an industry program, that we hope to roll out very, very soon, that will allow for, really, if there are disputes that come up over these kind of issues, for a publisher or an ad provider, to come to the Coalition and go through a dispute resolution process so that, in effect, we get a orderly and kind of a predictable interpretation of the standards so it all makes sense, and we don’t end up with multiple different entities interpreting these things different ways, including Google. So, there will be more from the Coalition.
Dan Rua: Super. Super. Thank you, Chuck.
Dan Rua: Next question really came to me as Mike and I were talking about things they’ve been doing. And Mike and I work together on a mix of IAB topics, and he’s one of the most vocal publishers in the IAB. And when we talked about getting ready for Chrome, I thought he had good insights on how he was leveraging the IAB standards to help him get ready. So, Mike, maybe you could comment, just real quickly, on what is kind of IAB LEAN ads, and the new ad portfolio, and how did that relate to you getting prepared for Google?
Mike McCleod: Sure. So, before the Coalition for Better Ads standards released their guidelines of the 11, or 12 or so formats that were determined to be forbidden, the IAB had been working on some principles for … well, so for example, the Coalition for Better Ads basically said, “These dozen formats are formats you shouldn’t have.” But the IAB was working on something along the lines of a restaurant rating. Saying, “These ad experiences are an A, these are a B.” They were trying to answer the question, which ad experiences are better than others? And kind of rank them, and maybe develop an algorithm or scoring system that then browsers and other entities could subscribe to.
Mike McCleod: And basically, with LEAN what they were looking at was … LEAN stands for Light Encrypted Ad Choice Enabled, and Non Invasive. And so, light gets to the heart of how fast they are to load. Encrypted, are they being delivered securely? Ad choice enabled, are the ads, if they use data, is there a way a user could opt out of that data collection? And then I think the piece that really intersects with the Coalition’s work, and then ultimately what Chrome and what Google decided to do, was the non invasive.
Mike McCleod: And so there are guidelines in the new IAB display ad guidelines. I think it’s on page 11. And so, we joined the IAB and we participated in the working group, so that we could contribute, and based on our experiences to how many file calls that we felt was acceptable when you’re building an HTML5 creative. What we were seeing in the industry is how many tracking pixels, and how many other things were added to ads, we’re able to contribute to that. But what I’ll say is that if you can join the IAB, if you can get involved in the working groups, it helps give you information and give you more in depth knowledge, and can help inform how you make your own products. But even if you can’t get involved, really sort of reading through the material, and trying to understand it, and if you don’t understand it, asking your peers in the industry, posting to message forums, is basically part of what I would say is really get into the weeds with the documents as they’re released, and then try to work to understand them.
Dan Rua: Super, Mike. Thanks a ton, and at one level, I don’t want to confuse folks with the IAB standard, as we’re about to roll into [inaudible 00:14:15] examples, but I do think it’s worth not only focusing on the Better Ads standard, because that is largely focused on specific ad units that were deemed intrusive. But there’s other elements to ad experience that LEAN and the new ad portfolio tries to take into account. For example, how light the ads are, that all publishers should be paying attention to in addition to the Better Ads standard, so thanks a lot, Mike.
Mike McCleod: Yeah, it’s almost like on the highway, getting into an accident, and making sure you’re safe. The Chrome blocking and the Better Ads standards are how to stop a traffic accident. And then LEAN is about well how to make the ad experiences as best it can be.
Dan Rua: Yep. Super.
Dan Rua: All right, next few bullets, I’m probably just going to riff a little bit for you. As I mentioned, we do have a lot of content, so we’re going to go quickly.
Dan Rua: But the next bullet is what is the new Chrome ad blocker, or filter? You’ll hear that term used, either a blocker or a filter, in some ways it’s a little bit of both. So Chrome implements the initial Better Ads standard, the bad ads that Chuck talked about as being created in that standard. They use that to then score a site on whether they have ads that are violating that standard. If they do violate that standard, and they don’t resolve that within 30 days, then they will block ads on that site. And possibly other calls on the publisher’s site with bad ads, that’s still to be determined, and I’ll get into that in a second.
Dan Rua: The threshold for bad ads, right now, sounds like it’s going to be about 7.5%. And so a single bad ad should not throw someone into penalty box, but if seven and a half percent of your ads are violating, then you’re going to need to fix it. And that will drop to about two and a half percent over, that’s the guidance Google’s provided so far, it’s not clear if even that 2.5% will change over time.
Dan Rua: And then lastly, as I mentioned, first they will flag it. We’ll get into the tools to notify you in a second. But if it’s not corrected within 30 days, then Chrome will take action and actually block ads on your site.
Dan Rua: When is it being released? Publicly stated release date is tomorrow. And so, no coincidence for this webinar time today, you also see tons of press floating out over the past week, and even this morning, Chrome gave the most detail they’ve given so far on the Chromium blog that is one of the links we share here, talking about what it’s going to look like starting tomorrow.
Dan Rua: Next question is, what will get filtered? And I really get a kind of a two part answer to that. So kind step one is what will get flagged. And what will get flagged, again, is those bad ads, per the initial Better Ads standard. But then if those aren’t remedied, then the question becomes what will get filtered from a publisher’s site? Again, bad ads, good ads and more, it looks like all ads on a site will get blocked.
Dan Rua: Chrome has integrated the ad blocker industry’s filter list, EasyList and EasyPrivacy, to execute blocking on sites that don’t solve the problem. I think open questions that we still have, and we still want to have more talks with Google on, is what does that mean for filters and EasyPrivacy? That write things like site analytics. Are they looking to implement everything that’s in EasyList and EasyPrivacy, or just some subset that they haven’t made clear yet?
Dan Rua: And, what does it mean for filters in EasyList that circumvent site copyright access controls? So, Admiral, for example, offers copyright access control for publishers, so they can protect their copyrighted content. And sometimes EasyList or EasyPrivacy will try to circumvent publishers from doing that. And it’s not clear how Google will handle those entries in EasyList and EasyPrivacy.
Dan Rua: Next question, how will uses be affected? Just some user impact by the numbers, so Chrome worldwide market share is large, 66% desktop, over half mobile. So, starting tomorrow, two thirds of desktop users will have ad blocking built in. Chrome versus other ad blockers, Eyeo, who makes Ad Block Plus, put out their own research on this, they claim that they block 51 of the 55 tested ad types by Better Ads, and Chrome blocks nine. Again, there’s this distinction between blocking and flagging that I think about. They may only flag nine ad types, but for sites that don’t remedy the problem, it appears they will block all ads on those sites.
Dan Rua: And in three, our take on it right now, we’ll see what happens over time, is that it’s unlikely that … right now there’s over 600 million devices worldwide blocking ads. It’s unlikely they will abandon their ad blocker any time soon. But it’s been stated publicly that Google hopes that it will at least slow to growth of ad block adoption.
Dan Rua: How will publishers be affected? And we’ll talk a lot more about this in the Q&A in a minute. So Chrome announced so far that only about 1% of the first 100,000 sites that were scanned were flagged. So right now it doesn’t look like a devastating impact. We’ll have more on Q&A. Plus, today there was that Chromium blog post that’s worth checking out.
Dan Rua: How will advertiser’s be affected? The initial Better Ads and IAB LEAN ads standards provide more ammunition to refuse bad ad experiences. So, there’s a time when advertisers would come with highly disruptive or intrusive ad experiences, because they wanted to get in front of that user, and sites were forced to kind of make a judgment call in trying to push back on that. These standards should at least help publishers point to the standard, and stay within its requirements.
Dan Rua: Panel, there is one question I have for you. Do you see this as kind of a major change, or minor change in the type of conversations you’ll be having with advertisers?
Max Rybakov: From our perspective, I don’t think so. LEAN is so much more than for ads, [inaudible 00:21:24] from my personal experiences, advertisers just kind of haven’t gotten there. They’ve taken as a recommendation, but it also kind of helps that we’re in the finance space, so things get to us a little bit late. But they announced LEAN, I want to say like a little more than half a year ago, we had got a couple of questions about it, and I don’t think advertisers really changed their creatives yet. So, I think that’s more important, and from a Better Ads perspective, a couple of those experiences are going to go away, but at the same thing, we’re still getting those requests. I don’t see this being that significant of a change, at least not yet.
Dan Rua: Great. And I’m going to keep moving because we have taken a lot of-
Mike McCleod: Hey, Dan?
Dan Rua: Yep.
Mike McCleod: So just to disagree a little bit-
Dan Rua: Sure.
Mike McCleod: With Max. In the short term, the day to day execution of ads and working with advertisers won’t change at all. However, what I will say is I think long term, this really puts the … so, back when IOS 9 was released and you could use content filtering to block ads in mobile, and there was a big conversation around ad blocking, I think Chrome doing this really brings this as a hot topic of conversation, and when we start talking to advertisers about, “Hey, your ad that you’re giving us is too heavy,” or, “Hey, you’ve got an unsecure pixel,” we can fall back on, “Hey, Chrome just blocked ads that are in violation.”
Mike McCleod: So it really does, in the long term, I think, turn the conversation towards better quality ads overall. So I think in the long term, it makes a big impact, but in the short term, absolutely not.
Dan Rua: Super. Super.
Dan Rua: All right. And then last one here on background, is just where can you get in the weeds even more, so plenty of recent news leaks, we’re going to send this to everyone after the presentation. The ad experience report video is very nicely done. And then if you wanted to dig into Chromium code just to see how they’re using EasyList and EasyPrivacy, we’ve got links for that as well.
Dan Rua: We are going to kind of shift into the next phase of the webinar. And, again, if you have a question, put it into the question in the control panel. We’re going to move into panel Q&A.
Dan Rua: So, what can publishers do to prepare? Topic one here is review the new ad standards. And so, panel, I’d ask what process did your team execute to review the ad standards? Was that one person that just went and took a look at things, and kind of hacked it together, did you have a committee, did you have a process? Give me your thoughts.
Max Rybakov: Sure, so to jump in, for us it was a pretty simple review process. The Better Ad standards are actually pretty clear cut. It’s easy from my perspective just because I run the product team, so I’m very familiar with what experiences we have.
Dan Rua: Yep.
Max Rybakov: All three of us kind of got together with it, then presented it to our executive team, like, “Okay, these are the three things that we’re going to affect us.” After that it should be [inaudible 00:24:45] pretty simply, like, “Okay, great, now where do we have to remove them?”
Dan Rua: Great.
Mike McCleod: Yeah, and to echo Max, it’s exactly the same process. A few of us that are responsible for ad product basically went through the formats. And also we did have a number of clarifying questions. For example, large sticky ads in the bottom were flagged, what does that mean exactly? 30% of screen size and mobile is flagged, what does that mean exactly? So we did have a lot of clarifying questions to dig into.
Mike McCleod: And then I will say also, is that we really did dig into all of the, however many it was, of the 200 ad experiences that were tested, because number one, we wanted to make sure we understood what was going to be forbidden. But then also, we wanted the research that was done to sort of guide our thinking about ad products overall going forward. And so, number one, make sure our interstitial didn’t get blocked. Okay, got it. But then after that, just say, “Well, wait a minute. Let’s look at the stacked ranking and see what interstitial format, or prestitial format ranked highest, and let’s see if we can try to achieve that, as opposed to some of the lower.”
Mike McCleod: So we did go through our ad products and look at how they stacked up against the research. And also, quite frankly, look at where we thought the research had holes and say, “Well, they didn’t consider this, but based on the principles we see here, what do we think that means?”
Mike McCleod: So we did do quite a bit of digging into the details, just to help inform our future thinking.
Dan Rua: Great.
Chuck Curran: And Chuck here, for the Coalition. We’ve had those same questions, too, about some of those formats, and we’ll be publishing very soon some tweaks to the language around the standard, just to address, because there’s certain formats where there have been some common questions, and the Coalition is certainly interested in being as clear as possible on what these standards cover, so …
Dan Rua: Nice. All right, next question, next topic is reviewing your site against those new ad standards, a little bit of overlap with the last discussion. I was just curious, did you have any surprises? And in particularly, did your team have any kind of revenue projection adjustments because of the Chrome launch? Do you expect revenue impacts that you then need to recover from with different units or something?
Max Rybakov: Yeah, from our perspective, the biggest thing for us was obviously the popups. We ran a fair amount of them beforehand. So we definitely had to kind of figure out a new solution to that. And I think, actually … I have to say, after the initial surprise of kind of … well, not really surprise, but the shock of okay, Chrome’s going to dictate you can’t do A, B, and C, and when you start looking at the standard, it’s really not that bad.
Max Rybakov: So, in our instance, interstitials can be replaced with sticky units, as long as not 30%, I think that’s perfectly fair, really. I kind of get where they’re coming from in terms of the interstitial being a bad user experience, so great, I’m fine with that. And just the fact that they’ve allowed prestitials and exit interstitials to remain, I think it’s actually kind of made a pretty smooth transition. I guess that’s kind of where I was coming from earlier when I say I don’t see this is as kind of like a catastrophic, the sky is falling for publishers, you’re about to lose all of this revenue situation.
Max Rybakov: The one thing I will say, for those of you are going to then be trying to exactly find the definition of a prestitial, poststitial and exinterstitial, Google has been a little bit less than transparent about how exactly they’re going to be categorizing those, and that is one of the frustrations that we’ve experienced, to the point where we’ve gone to the forums and kind of really had to dig in deep with their moderators and their product people, and even our own Google contacts that kind of get answers to these things. So, Chuck, I don’t know if when you say that the Better Ads Coalition is going to be releasing a little bit of clarification, if that’s going to be included, but yeah, I think that’s really the biggest problem we’ve had.
Dan Rua: Super.
Dan Rua: All right, next topic, check your Google ad experience report. So, obvious question, did you use the ad experience report, was it helpful? And then, Mike, you’ve got a handful of sites. Max, you’ve got a large set of sites, how was it working with the ad experience report across that network?
Max Rybakov: It was a little bit of a pain. We had to go in and manually configure it. For some our sites, we didn’t have the proper persmissions set up from that search console. The best thing I would actually recommend for if there are any other networks out there, for trying to get a sense of what’s going to be affected, so Google actually has an API that you can ping. It’s going to return back all the sites that have been flagged, all the sites that have been tested. So if you’re going to try to do like a quick once over to see if there are immediate red flags, I’d recommend starting with that.
Mike McCleod: Yeah, and just to echo that, one of the partners that we work with, one of the outsource trafficking partners we work with, actually proactively sent us a URL, and its other customers, and said, “Hey, we’ve programmed against the Google ad experience APIs”, and I don’t know if there are more … Max, it sounds like something you did, I don’t know if there are more URLs or pages out there than the ones that our trafficking partner provided us, but I can hit a URL, and I can see all of the pages that are flagged, and whether they’re pending, or whether they’re going to be blocked.
Mike McCleod: So, like Max said, I think it’s somewhat straightforward to create a simple script that you ping the Google APIs and say, “Here’s my list of URLs, where do they stand in the ad experience report?” Or, just to get a list of all the flagged URLs, and then just control F, find, to see if any of your domains are listed.
Dan Rua: Super. In our follow up materials, we’ll also make sure there’s a link to that info. Very good.
Dan Rua: And then, what if some of your ads are flagged? And did you have some ads that were flagged? And then did you have to go through a process of kind of resubmission to Google, and how did that work out?
Max Rybakov: So we did have that … I kind of want to take a second to … tell a little bit of a story from our perspective. So this is something that’s coming out tomorrow, but because of the 30 day window, it’s, again, I just want to stress for any publishers out there, if you’re just now hearing about this and are concerned about everything being shut off tomorrow, more likely than not, that’s not what’s going to be happening.
Max Rybakov: So, just to take a step back, so when we were looking through the API, which of our sites have been flagged, because we actually have a fairly standard ad experience, where really interstitials are the biggest thing. Out of a network of about 200 sites, we only had three that were flagged as failing. So, I just wanted to throw that out there, because I think that was really the moment where we said, “Okay, we can take a deep breath.” And we’ve actually spoken to Google, and they’ve kind of hinted at this being something that they’re going to be ramping up later throughout the year, but … just because, I know from my experience, everybody’s been reading about this February 15th date, and kind of running around like chickens with it. And that’s really not the case.
Max Rybakov: And so when our ads were flagged, I think one of the things that Google did pretty well to kind of handle the situation, is that if it’s the first that your ad has been flagged, you can go in, say adjust what the issue is, and resubmit it. And then they’re not going to block you immediately, if that’s the case. I think they say that they are going to give you a grace period at that point, while the ad is being re-evaluated. And just based on my experience, it actually takes them a fair amount of time to re-evaluate these things. I don’t know if this was just a bug that they had with their process prior to the launch of this thing, but it’s going to take a couple of days. There were a couple of publishers in the forums that I was looking through that have been complaining about them having re-submitted their ad like a month or two ago and not having gotten a response back. Now again, this was before the standard launched, so possibly this is going to change, but what the forum administrator said is that, “Great, if we’re re-evaluating, we’re not going to be blocking your ads, if this is kind of like your first offense, until we get back to you.”
Max Rybakov: So that was a little bit of a pain, in terms of kind of having to hear back, because of our use case of what’s pretty straight forward that it was only one or two experiences that were broken, it wasn’t really that difficult to fix, except for the lag time with Google.
Dan Rua: Super.
Dan Rua: All right, next topic. What if none of your ads are flagged? I’m just curious, once you’re clean, or maybe you found you were clean, and maybe Mike, have you guys implemented a process of how you’re thinking about this for ongoing review?
Mike McCleod: We do. As I said before, we look at the LEAN standards and try to … from the IAB, and make sure that we’re living up to that. We have come creative scanning processes in place that are monitoring for CPU usage, total number of file requests, and those sort of things to improve the ad experience, to make ads load faster.
Mike McCleod: And, like I said, long term, is we’re looking at … as we develop new ad products, we’re looking at the Coalition for Better Ads standards, and looking at how those things were tested to figure out well, hey, how can we produce the best experience?
Mike McCleod: And then last what I’ll say is that right now, manually, we have a checklist of every Monday to go to check the ad experience report, just to make sure where we stand recently, just to make sure we don’t … are flagged or any issues. Once a week may be too much, and we hope to automate that soon. But so, I absolutely will say that this has helped us think about ad products in a more … just simply in a better way. And I think it’s going to get everyone thinking about it in a better way.
Dan Rua: Nice.
Dan Rua: Next topic. Is there a dispute resolution process? Is there any room for interpretation in the standard, or what happens if you disagree with Google, and does membership in the Coalition play any role in this? And so Chuck, this one’s a great one for you, I know you’ve talked about it before, I don’t know how many details we have. What is the process [inaudible 00:36:20] Google or all the partners?
Chuck Curran: Well, and just kind of distinguishing, we’ve got members in our Coalition who were part of the sort of standards process, but we’ve been separately trying to roll out, and we’re rushing like everybody else, a program that will offer the dispute resolution that I mentioned, and the opportunity to have an independent look about, is it a popup or not, or is further testing needed to set up a rational process for that? You should be hearing from us very soon on that.
Chuck Curran: I think one of the interesting developments is that in recent months, we just haven’t had any predictability, in terms of how many disputes we’re going to need to get ready for. And it’s our impression, at this time, as we’ve heard from some of our publisher pals, that publishers are way ahead of this, we don’t see a whole lot of controversy coming, but from the perspective of the Coalition, and kind of the cross industry effort, we do want to have that backstop that it’s not just one company’s opinion, it’s … to the extent these standards are being used, you have to … the opinion and dispute resolution done by the entity that they should then, which is the Coalition.
Dan Rua: Super. So it sounds like more to come on that front, but philosophically, that’s what you’re trying to get to, to give some resolution-
Chuck Curran: Yeah, and just to be clear, the mechanism we’re talking about would be … there would be, if you can self certify, there’s one step that you could take as a publisher, is you could join and step up and self certify that you’re going to abide by the standards. And you’d have, as part of this program, you’d have access to this dispute resolution mechanism if something came up, so you’d always have the option of not being part of the program, and dealing with Google directly, or you would have the option of being in the program and actually decided to champion the fact that you’re going to put yourself to an added station of compliance, and be able to tell your partners that.
Chuck Curran: And also, the ability to get that independent dispute resolution.
Dan Rua: Super. Super.
Dan Rua: All right, next topic. How will this impact the publisher’s demand partners? We kind of touched on this before, so I don’t know if there’s a lot to add, have you already talked to your demand partners? And does this change your process at all going forward?
Max Rybakov: Yeah, I feel like this was a pretty standard question that we had. To make sure that everything we’re going to be running is going to be compliant. We had a fair amount of freedom, and actually a lot of our demand partners, from a direct and indirect side, have been kind of like thinking, “Okay, great, this is going away, what can I do to kind of replace it and keep the performance there?” So there’s actually a lot of innovation going on from a lot of different sides, to come up with new executions, and kind of make sure that they adhere to the Better Ads standard, and maybe a little bit the standard of LEAN, but I think that that’s a separate issue.
Dan Rua: Okay. Nice.
Dan Rua: All right, next question. Is this the end of high impact, disruptive, creative ad units? Any thoughts on that topic?
Mike McCleod: Well, are ads supposed to be disruptive? Is that what we’re trying to achieve here? If you’re … or at least our point of view as a publisher, is that part of the effectiveness of an ad is that it’s mixed with our content. It’s not enough to see, for the PGA Tour, it’s not enough to see a Titleist ad, you need to see a Titleist ad in conjunction with some of the best golfers in the world doing what they do best.
Mike McCleod: So, we see the ad experience as trying to make it additive. If you’re pursuing clicks and tricks, then hopefully this is the beginning of the end of that. But how do we … this begins a conversation of how do we make it good for consumers? I don’t know if anyone has been watching the Olympics, but the Olympic ads are well done, and they’re entertaining, so were the Super Bowl ads, and how can we … obviously those are the highest pinnacle of advertising, but how can we sort of try to imbibe that in our daily life? There should be high impact ads that aren’t disruptive. And hopefully this puts us on a path to get there.
Dan Rua: Yep. Yep.
Dan Rua: Next question. Desktop versus mobile, display versus video. After you review and adjustments, do you feel yourself favoring any category of units over others, to make up for lost revenue? Or it’s just tweaks around the edges?
Max Rybakov: I’ve always been a big fan of native ads. I’ll admit, I’m a little bit bias, just because that’s kind of a product I’ve been focusing on for a couple of years. That is definitely one of the primary recommendations we’ve been going out and talking to our sales people about, saying, “Hey, we know you’re going to have a lot of advertisers who are going to want to see the performance that they’ve been accustomed to seeing.” Us saying [inaudible 00:42:01] “This format is going away”, doesn’t really solve their problem, so I kind of agree with Mike, that you don’t have to be disruptive to be kind of high impact. The way that question’s a little but formulated, assumes that you have to be one to be the other, and I don’t necessarily think that’s the case, that there is a better way to do ads, where you can have it work for both parties.
Max Rybakov: A lot of the things that I think the Better Ads standard is trying to get rid of, were almost lazy. Pop unders, for instance. I think we as kind of industry should all probably agree that that is a terrible user experience that should just go away. I think there are other ways to keep performance. So yeah, native is definitely a favorite of mine … yeah.
Mike McCleod: Yeah, I will say that … so some changes that it really did push us in the direction of, was we did really … we do still sell out stream units. Now the out stream units have to be in compliance with the Better Ads standards, they have to be in compliance with LEAN, but we do still have, if you go to our scoring pages, once every 12 hours, and you can close it, and it doesn’t auto start with sound, so it’s completely in compliance. We do, in the middle of your browsing experience, provide a video ad. And based on what unfolded in the last few months, as a sales team, as an ad product team, we really did say, “You know, we’re going to take that ad format, even though it’s allowed, and even though it tested okay, we’re moving it from the menu to the back of the kitchen.” We have it, and if you ask for it, we can provide it to you. But we really did then think about well, what about skippable video? We’re trying to put these out stream units here, can we move them into polite, pre-roll skippable video? Can we make that video an in banner experience that is not as disruptive as we think out stream video is. So it really did sort of immediately make us prioritize one ad experience over another.
Dan Rua: Terrific. Terrific.
Dan Rua: All right, we’ve only got about five more minutes here. Last topic. So one of the things we find, in talking to publishers, is there’s so much attention to playing defense on this. Making sure that you’re not hurt by the standards, or you’re not hurt by the Chrome ad blocker, that they often forget to think about is there an opportunity to play offense? And use these standards to actually come out better off than all of it? And so, Admiral actually has an ongoing, evergreen panel of ad blockers that we ask questions of every single week. And by the way, if any of you have questions you’d like to put to an ad blocker, just email us, we’d love to include it in one of our weeks batches. And one of the questions we asked them in the last go around, was the Coalition For Better Ads works with digital publishers, and websites, to set enforcement for non intrusive, beneficial ad standards. Would you be more likely to white list a website in your ad blocker, if you knew the website adhered to the Coalition For Better Ads?
Dan Rua: And if you take out the 16% of people who didn’t even think they had an ad blocker, three out of four ad blockers said that they’d be more likely to white list if engaged by CBA-compliant sites. And so, at least the way we see the world, this is an opportunity to play offense. If a publisher’s already done their work to have a LEAN ad experience, or a Better Ads experience, to then communicate that with your users, and get them to turn off their ad blockers as a result. And I’m just curious, Mike and Max, have you guys thought about this in an offensive way, or are you doing things to try to benefit from these changes you’re making?
Mike McCleod: What I’ll say, it’s not … it helps us in two ways, and it’s sort of an internal business to business help, not necessarily business to consumer. When we work without advertising partners, the fact that we’re compliant, and the fact that these standards exist, helps gives us some leverage, and help us start the conversation when we get creative that’s not compliant. So it absolutely helps in that way. And it also allows us, when we’re talking about ad formats, and what works, and what doesn’t work, is it gives some sense of genuineness, is that, “Hey, we’re not disallowing because of some arbitrary rule, but we’re disallowing this because we think it’s going to be the best for advertising your brand.”
Mike McCleod: So it’s more on an offensive side in the business sense, more so than to the consumer. But when you’re saying no to this big advertiser, to that big advertiser, or you’re asking them to change their formats, or they wanted out stream, but you’re trying to work with them on skippable video, you can imagine an advertiser that used to run a 30 second preroll in mobile, and now you’re saying it needs to be six seconds, or it needs to skip at the five second mark, as having that conversation, being involved in this process, absolutely helps that a whole lot.
Dan Rua: Super. Max, have you guys thought about this at all, how to come out of this in a better position, vis a vis ad blockers or others?
Max Rybakov: Yeah, for us this has kind of given us more an internal incentive to push … not so much the Better Ads initiative, just because then it’s pretty clear cut, but the entire conversation about it are focusing on the L in LEAN. Light, light. If you look at, I feel like, most of the sites that cause high rates of ad blocking, it’s because they are just terribly slow. And I think that’s something as an industry that we’ve gone so far down the rabbit hole in terms of monetization, from a direct and indirect perspective, that you have such complicated text apps, so many trackers going off a page, that if you go to some of these sites, it’s going to take maybe 10 seconds to load before you can get content that’s in a stable place that isn’t jumping all around the page. That I think is the biggest problem in the industry, and unfortunately, Better Ads doesn’t … Chrome didn’t say that we’re going to use the Google … what is it, the page insights tool, and block ads on sites that are like … they’re ranking at like 30% out of 100. They didn’t do that. So unfortunately, it’s not really fixing the core issue in the industry, from kind of how I see it. But we definitely have started using this as kind of a reasoning to go back out to all of our partners and say, “Hey, whether it’s you, whether it’s us, whether it’s how we work together, we need to really start thinking about how we’re building an entire ad stack that is really going to start to look at the user experience.”
Max Rybakov: I think it’s been something that’s been coming for a while. I think the LEAN recommendations have kind of helped guide the conversation there, but I think it’s still really … honestly, at least a year, and I think that’s optimistic, until the industry starts tackling that, which I personally as kind of like the core reasoning for user dissatisfaction with the experience.
Dan Rua: Great. Great. All right, so we are at the end. We have about five minutes, we’re not going to be able to get to everyone’s questions. I do want to take at least one here. Let’s see if anyone has any comments. So the question was, so if an ad block user does not turn off their respective ad blocker, does what Google is doing have any effect? And I’ll chat on that for a second, anyone wants to add color.
Dan Rua: So, what I heard from the panel today, is it definitely has effects across the ecosystem. So the ability to long term improve ad experiences, and get advertisers on the same page etc., it definitely helps move the ball on that front. It’s not necessarily driving users to turn off their ad blockers, but hopefully long term there’s a benefit.
Dan Rua: Would that match how you guys see it, or anything to add to this question?
Mike McCleod: So, the question is a technical one, right, Dan? It’s asking that if I, and using a … don’t even want to say their names, but if I’m using one of the popular ad blockers, will I then also get the Google filtering message, or will the Google filtering message be blocked? And I’ll be honest with you, I don’t … I guess I’m going to find out tomorrow. But that’s interesting. Because you would hope that they would get that message, because maybe it would spur people to not use ad blockers.
Dan Rua: Yep.
Mike McCleod: I mean, am I thinking about it the right way, Dan?
Dan Rua: I think so. We’ll add some more color on the follow up to everyone. I think there’s a few different ways to tackle that question.
Dan Rua: So we are the end though, I want to thank the panel for joining us, really great content, Chuck, Mike, Max. I really appreciate your experience, I hope the publishers and other attendees got a lot out of this. And attendees, thank you for joining us. And the recording of this will go out, I think automatically, shortly after this, and then we also send follow up links for added detail on everything we talked about today.
Dan Rua: So, panel, thanks a ton.
Mike McCleod: Yeah, thank you, Dan.
Max Rybakov: Thanks Dan.
Dan Rua: All right. Everybody, have a great day today.