Stop me if this has happened to you, too: You’ve found an article you very much want to read, so you open it up on the browser of your smartphone. However, instead of reading the article, suddenly your screen is engulfed by an ad that appears, pushing the editorial you’re trying to read up or down and out of view.
By now, you’ve lost interest, so you end up closing out the browser and moving on to something else. Or how about the persistent pop up ad that appears when you’re trying to read your favorite news site on your iPhone, and you end up playing Whack-a-Mole trying to get rid of it?
Unfortunately, this is an increasingly common occurrence. As The New York Times recently detailed, such ads have a way of commandeering the screen and refusing to budge. That tiny X that’s ostensibly designed to close out the ad often resists repeated finger taps. A recent report by PricewaterhouseCoopers, for instance, showed 50% of consumers surveyed said they accidentally clicked on a mobile ad over the previous month. Even assuming maximum ad relevance, some 56% of respondents said they would prefer not to be shown any mobile ads.
If the industry is actively trying to repel users from engaging with mobile content, it is succeeding. The rise of ad blockers illustrates that consumers are willing to pursue a nuclear option to attempt to salvage their mobile experience. It’s time for everyone who cares about the mobile experience to step back and look at our options. It turns out plenty are available.
Here are three ways to fix the mobile ad experience.
1. Improve Polite-Loading Standards
The IAB, the industry’s primary bulwark against annoying advertising, has addressed the loading issue with polite-loading standards that limit file sizes. Such standards require an editorial page to load fully before an ad does. However, this sometimes does more harm than good since it can prompt one of the situations described above in which a reader gets drawn into an article only to have an ad come in, “politely loading” only after the editorial content has loaded and yet inadvertently ruining the experience.
One idea to improve this situation is to have a page load and mark off part of the page where the ad will go. That way, you have a page that fully loads and an outline of where the ad will go. The ads then will come in later on, providing a more consistent experience.
2. Push For A L.E.A.N. Approach
The IAB’s latest attempt to address the woeful state of mobile ads is L.E.A.N. (light, encrypted, ad-choice supported, non-invasive), an initiative that seeks to address one of consumers’ biggest complaints about mobile ads, that they load too slowly. With L.E.A.N., ads that are not being viewed won’t load, flashing and blinking ads would go by the wayside, and autoplay for video would be used more sparingly.
The problem is that it is unclear when L.E.A.N. would go into effect (the IAB says this year) and how it would be enforced. Advertisers and publishers should rally around this push.
3. Increase Advertiser-Publisher Collaboration
Annoying advertising on mobile is hurting advertisers and publishers alike. If readers can’t read, then it defeats the purpose of providing such content in the first place, which means there’s no longer any vehicle to view ads.
That’s why publishers and advertisers should collaborate on improving the ad experience. A big part of this is executing proper pre-launch QAing by publisher operations teams on multiple devices and browsers to ensure that ads are behaving the way they should in real-world conditions. This will help ensure the ads are working, rather than being likely to drive readers away.
The Bottom Line
It is clear that something needs to be done to improve the mobile ad experience. The reality is, consumers have other options, including ad blockers, and such tools are already attracting a minority of consumers. We should do all we can to proactively improve the mobile ad experience and blunt that impact while we can.