Ads are getting lean and mean: industry placing users first

Welcome to 2017: The online advertising industry, closely monitored by IAB

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Welcome to 2017: The online advertising industry, closely monitored by IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau), now realizes how bloated and poor-performing their own ecosystem is. The tech community, behind the endless ad infrastructure of the internet, has been packing on the weight in terms of transfer size, memory usage, and an insatiable hunger for attention.

The size of advertising scripts and the number of external assets they require, beyond their initial request, is insanely large. The complex ball-pit of network requests for each placement on a page also comes at a high cost of memory – have you ever wondered why Chrome is devouring so much of your computer’s resources while just browsing the web? It’s highly likely that the ads you are viewing on each tab are having a dramatic effect on your browser’s resource usage.

In addition to poor technical performance, ads are becoming hungry for your attention by physically blocking the regular function of the page to seduce your eyes onto an ad. Generally, there is little control over just how many advertisements can be shown to you before the content is viewable.

The realization of these ever-growing issues has prompted IAB to propose its LEAN initiative. LEAN is a set of standards proposed by IAB to help protect the consumer by ensuring a better user experience:

“The first rule is to respect the consumer online, and to offer a quality, uncluttered experience.”

LEAN is an acronym formed from its 4 core pillars of ad quality: light, encrypted, ad choice supported, non-invasive ads:

LIGHT refers to the transfer size of the placement, and how many requests a placement makes in its lifetime. Large assets and scripts will certainly slow down a page overall, yet the number of requests an ad makes (even if they’re tiny) for images etc. will create many network connections and further hinder page load performance.

I enjoy building performance-minded components that look great and cost the user as little as possible in terms of resource usage. Nobody likes unresponsive web pages, yet poor page performance is a common problem – especially with so many ad providers fighting for the same space. The key to preventing damage to the user experience of a page is in passivity; load what you need, when you need it, in as short a transmission as possible.

The ENCRYPTED aspect of LEAN simply refers to the security of the connection from which the ads are delivered. All Kiosked API endpoints support up-to-date security standards on encryption. Ads can run anywhere in a secure manner. Simply stated, it is not wise to go without HTTPS support in this industry.

AD CHOICE SUPPORTED is an initiative by the Digital Advertising Alliance to help users regain control over their ad targeting information. It allows us to configure which networks (if any) are allowed to use consumer identity for targeting purposes.

NON-INVASIVE ADS are placements which don’t interrupt the use of a page for the purpose of increasing viewability (how much an ad is seen). Invasive ads (including full-screen modals, pop-up videos etc.) could negatively affect user retention, whereas non-invasive ads should strike a balance between viewability and usability.

Kiosked provides several non-invasive ad units that allow users to peruse the content without interruption. Such units are usually the most popular as their positioning within the content often makes for the best compromise between ads-seen and accessibility.

Standards such as LEAN are of a real interest to our team here and colleagues as it provides a smart way to measure our success in terms of user experience. The goal of LEAN is one that benefits all parties online and serves only to bolster the advertising industry’s relationship with consumers.