Advertising helps support diverse types of free content, fearless journalism and close-knit social connections that span across the world. But as the web has grown, the online ad experience has sometimes fallen short of consumers’ expectations, as indicated in part by the emergence of ad blocking. For example, ads that disrupt the browsing experience or delay access to content can frustrate consumers.
In order to improve the consumer experience, leading international trade associations and companies in the online media ecosystem joined forces to create the Coalition for Better Ads. The Coalition conducts research in order to develop data-driven standards for online advertising. The goal is to measure consumers’ preferences about the types of ads they least prefer, in order to help the global marketplace take steps to deliver a better ad experience.
The Coalition plans to continue its research and test other additional digital advertising environments beyond those discussed below.
To determine which ad experiences most annoy and frustrate consumers, the Coalition for Better Ads uses a survey model that replicates the "real world" experiences of users, as they view ads while reading or consuming high-quality online content. The same model can be used in different digital ad environments, like desktop web, mobile web, short-form video and in apps.
Here’s how the desktop web and mobile web research worked with the Coalition’s methodology. Paid participants across different demographics were selected. The participants were each asked to read articles on four simulated content pages, three of which contained different ad experiences, and one of which had no ads. Participants were then asked to rate each ad experience on multiple factors, such as whether the ad was annoying or distracting. The survey participants also comparatively ranked the different ad experiences, based on personal preference. This methodology has been adapted subsequently to study ad experiences in short-form video and in apps.
By merging these consumer preference ratings across thousands of survey participants, the Coalition’s methodology supports the creation of an overall “stack ranking” of dozens of different ad experiences, from better to worse. These consumer rankings are then combined with additional survey-based data designed to measure how increased consumer annoyance and distraction also correlates with a higher likelihood to use ad blockers.
Based on this combined consumer preference data, the Coalition’s methodology makes it possible to identify the ad experiences that fall beneath a minimum threshold of acceptability for desktop web and mobile web — the Better Ads Standards for those particular digital environments.
You can learn more about the methodology underlying the development of Better Ads Standards by reading the following research whitepapers:
In the first phase of the Coalition’s research, more than 25,000 Internet users in North America and Europe were surveyed about their preferences for different types of online ads. The research included desktop web (55 ad experiences) and mobile web (49 ad experiences). The results of the Coalition’s consumer-focused research define Better Ads Standards that identify the ad experiences that fall beneath a threshold of consumer acceptability. Better Ads Standards reveal the least preferred, most annoying ad experiences that are also most likely to cause consumers to adopt ad blockers.
The research methodology was then used to measure consumers’ preferences in Asia, Latin America, and Africa. The research found strong alignment of consumer preferences across countries and regions for the most- and least-preferred online ad experiences, supporting the adoption of the same Better Ads Standards for desktop and mobile web globally. To date, more than 66,000 consumers in countries representing 70% of global online advertising spending have participated in the Coalition’s research for desktop and mobile web.
The following types of ad experiences were least preferred by consumers and beneath the Better Ads Standard for mobile web:
The Coalition conducted research on 40 instream video ad experiences in short-form video content for desktop, mobile web and in-app environments. Short-form video is defined as 8 minutes or less for these environments. Nearly 45,000 consumers in 8 countries representing 60% of global online advertising spending participated. The Coalition’s short-form video research found strong alignment of consumer preferences across countries and regions and across these environments for the most- and least-preferred online ad experiences, supporting the adoption of a single Better Ads Standard for these environments globally. The most interfering ads were generally those that make users wait before they can skip ads, are longer, or interrupt users while they watch a video.
The Coalition conducted research on 31 mobile app ad experiences in a casual gaming environment. More than 45,000 consumers in 7 countries participated. The Coalition’s research found strong alignment of consumer preferences across countries and regions, supporting the adoption of a single Better Ads Standard for mobile apps globally. The most interfering ads were generally those that interrupted game play/content or were longer in length.
The following types of ad experiences were least preferred by consumers and beneath the Better Ads Standard for mobile app ad experiences: