Digital ads may become less annoying under new plan

Videos that auto-play with sound and ads that swamp screens among most-hated types

Tech giants, advertisers and online publishers are pushing forward with plans to clean the web of the most annoying and intrusive types of ads as part of an industry response to the rise of ad blocking software.

The coalition, which includes Google and Facebook and major advertisers Procter & Gamble and Unilever, has launched new sets of "Better Ad Standards" in Europe and the US to discourage the use of the most-hated formats.

A major research project by the Coalition for Better Ads has confirmed consumers are irritated by a variety of digital ad formats including “pop-ups” that cover the screen and video ads that auto-play with sound.


About 25,000 users in the UK, Germany, Italy and Spain participated in a research project where they were asked to give their feedback on 104 different ad formats in simulated desktop and mobile environments.


Some 16 formats, including full-screen ads with “countdowns” and mobile ads that swamp more than 30 per cent of the screen, were widely held to be unacceptable by consumers.

“The coalition is dedicated to delivering a better consumer experience of digital advertising,” said IAB Ireland chief executive Suzanne McElligott, who was involved in the process on behalf of industry group IAB Europe and its national counterparts.

“The industry will move very quickly towards discontinuing the most annoying formats,” she said.

“We want digital advertising to continue to flourish, but it can only do that with engagement from consumers. It is not a sustainable model otherwise.”

The coalition intends to repeat its research in other markets.

IAB has separately developed a set of industry guidelines known as the Lean principles that promote “non-invasive” ad formats, and these will be tested in Ireland and other European markets shortly.


The World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) welcomed the launch of the new ad standards.

"Brand owners now have data on which online ad formats their consumers dislike and therefore won't interact with," said WFA chief executive Stephan Loerke.

“The WFA strongly encourages its members and all advertisers to review the research and implement the Better Ads Standards in their online campaigns, helping improve the online ad experience for consumers and reduce the incentive to ad block.”

While Facebook is a member of the coalition, it has recently tested auto-playing videos on its platform with the sound turned on.

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery is an Irish Times journalist writing about media, advertising and other business topics