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 is, “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.

Is Google building a Chrome Adblocker?


News that Google is developing a Chrome adblocker feature is causing ripples in the online advertising space.

Following the release of the story on the Wall Street Journal, much of the discussion at this point is speculative. Google has not yet made any announcements relating to the Chrome adblocker. However, if Google does decide to move forward, this move could be a rude awakening for both advertisers and publishers.

Reasons the Chrome Adblocker is Likely

There is a distinct and growing trend towards users seeking out third party adblocking software. According to the CFBA study of internet user behavior, 26% of users are currently using adblockers.

With the promise of highly targeted ads, 2017 will be the first year that more advertising dollars will be spent online than on television. The Coalition for Better Ads studies the behaviors of web surfers, and how they interact with ads. The research indicates that demand for software that blocks advertisements has grown. This is most likely in response to advertisers creeping towards progressively more intrusive ads.

Besides, the move to develop a Chrome Adblocker wouldn’t be unprecedented. Many alternative options already exist on the market today.

Chrome is the most widely used web browser on the internet. Any upgrade by Google automatically uploads to all connected devices, so it’s entirely possible that the Chrome adblocker function will be activated by default on both mobile and desktop versions of the browser when that upgrade comes. On whatever day Google decides to ‘throw the switch,’ the impact to both advertisers and publishers will be felt immediately.

Industry Response to Adblockers

CFBA research concludes that when users encounter ads that block, delay, or distract from content that they are more likely to become frustrated and abandon the website. Many adblock services don’t discriminate between ads that meet the CFBA standards and those that fail them.

The trend towards adblocker adoption eats into a website’s revenues. Publishers have been experimenting with ways to ask users to voluntarily whitelist their site. This includes publishers like the Wall Street Journal and Business Insider. In these cases, publishers ask visitors to turn off adblockers before granting access to their content.

Other companies go one step further and pay adblocking software providers directly to have their ads whitelisted by default. Google themselves have such an arrangement with AdBlock Plus. This isn’t surprising, considering Google’s reliance on advertising revenues.

How the Chrome Adblocker Would Likely Work

It seems unlikely that the Chrome adblocker will block Google’s own ads. Instead, it’s likely to follow CFBA guidelines and punish advertisers that detract from user experience.

The Chrome adblocker would not block all ads, just unacceptable ads. The guidelines described by the CFBA have until now been voluntary. This move could effectively ‘force the hand’ of advertisers. Unless publishers are successful in getting users to whitelist their websites, many of the more intrusive ads will go largely unseen.

The more irritated the user, the more likely they will look for ad blocking software. Ads that popover, autoplay, use flashing or shaking graphics, and otherwise contribute to a negative experience are likely to be pushed aside. Ads that do not elbow their way into the user’s attention will likely pass through the filter.

In other words, advertisers and publishers will have to rely on CFBA best practices for acceptable ads. Improving the user experience has been the stated goal behind many of the sweeping changes Google has made in the past. It’s clear the CFBA guidelines align with those goals.

What Do We Know For Sure?

Google has not officially announced the release of the Chrome adblocker. It’s worth pointing out that the Silicon Valley giant develops products constantly, many of which never see the light of day.

Google also has a growing list of products that are launched and later scrapped. Any conjecture about “if & when” the Chrome adblocker will be released is just a guess.

However, consider the wide adoption of the browser. If the adblocker software is released in the upcoming weeks, it will make the Chrome adblocker the largest adblock solution available on the internet.

Also consider that when the browser updates, the adblocker software may default to the ‘on’ setting. That could precipitate a rapid and unparalleled move towards adblocker adoption that advertisers and publishers have never experienced before.


Advertising online won’t disappear. Revenues generated from advertisers are as fundamental to the growth of online content providers as to offline providers.

What is true — and will always be true — is that the online advertising landscape is always changing and evolving. Tools are already available to monitor adblocking responses. Admiral is one such service provider, using metric analysis to help publishers navigate best ad practices and the L.E.A.N. ads principles.

Adapting to the rise of adblockers is going to be part of doing business in the online space. That will be true whether or not Google launches the Chrome adblocker. If nothing else, the WSJ story will provide publishers and advertisers an opportunity to decide if they will be early to adapt, or if they will be late.

Google Chrome Adblocker

Is Google launching a Chrome bad ads blocker?

  • https://www.wsj.com/articles/google-plans-ad-blocking-feature-in-popular-chrome-browser-1492643233
  • https://techcrunch.com/2017/04/19/google-said-to-be-planning-a-built-in-ad-blocker-for-chrome/
  • https://www.engadget.com/2017/04/19/wsj-google-will-build-an-ad-blocker-into-chrome/
  • https://seekingalpha.com/news/3258124-wsj-google-developing-built-ad-blocker-chrome-browser

If so, Admiral Measure can help publishers monitor bad ad and LEAN ad user experiences and adblocking responses.

Antiadblock API

For publishers that might consider tackling adblock in-house, there is at least one antiadblock API that in-house developers can use to develop the best antiadblock solution for their site.  Using an API also provides some level of future-proofing because adblock detection and blocker response is an ongoing process, best addressed by an evolving service that publishers can always call via API to get accurate antiadblocker detection and response signals.