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Are YOU following the CBA’s ‘Better Ad Standards’ rules?

David Bosley

We know that Google and Facebook business leaders feel as though they’re all-powerful and all-knowing when it comes to consumers, but did you know that they’ve ganged up with mega-brands from around the globe to create a Coalition for Better Ads? That’s right, there’s an international symposium of ad providers that includes Microsoft, NewsCorp, IAB, Proctor & Gamble, The Washington Post, Unilever and Reuters — all focused on ensuring that advertisers are delivering ads that don’t tick off consumers. And they have the collective power to limit the visibility of ads that don’t meet their “standards.”

Sound frightening? Yeah, it kinda is. And changes are coming at you fast. February 2018, to be exact — approximately 10 months after the standards were initially released. A significant amount of research went into forming the standards, including consumer preference ratings of 104 different types of ads by over 25,000 consumers. Several desktop and mobile advertising experiences were targeted as being a negative experience for consumers: auto-play video ads with sound, large sticky ads, pop-up ads and prestitial ads with countdown. Do you recognize ads that you’re using in that list? You better get busy replacing them with some that are considered by the omnipotent CBA (Coalition for Better Ads) to be less offensive.

Better Ad Standards

In their infinite wisdom, the CBA has defined what they call ‘Better Ad Standards’, and they will be expecting advertisers in all realms to adhere to these recommendations . . . or else. There are several desktop and mobile web ad experiences that fall beneath the lofty goals for consumer acceptance. The stated goal is to reduce the number of consumers who resort to ad blockers — which gives advertisers a path forward for advertising that actually adds value to consumers. The type of ads that are recommended for avoidance include:


  • Pop-up ads
  • Auto-playing videos with countdown
  • Prestitial ads with countdown
  • Large sticky ads


  • Pop-up ads
  • Prestitial ads
  • Ad density higher than 30 percent
  • Flashing animated ads
  • Auto-playing video ads with sound
  • Postitial ads with countdown
  • Full-screen scrollover ads
  • Large sticky ads

Do these ad types sound familiar? Most advertisers have at least one of these options implemented on their website at any one time — and possibly more than one.

Digital Advertising Funnel

LEAN Scoring System

The Coalition is actively working on creating a scoring system for advertising that is supposed to improve the user experience across a variety of screens. Marketers are encouraged to “responsibly leverage data to achieve deeper engagement with consumers“, according to Tom Benton, CEO of the Data & Marketing Association (DMA). The high standards will also include sanctions against those who do not comply. LEAN stands for Light Encrypted Ad Choice Supported Non-invasive Ads, and the principles were first released in 2015. However, until February 2018, there were no real sanctions against organizations who chose not to adopt. These invasive ads are so prevalent on the internet today that consumers are actively forcing ad-blocking software to take over. Want to check your advertising’s compliance with the standards? Google’s Ad Experience Report Tool provides some additional information and a quick way to confirm compliance.

Quick Bypass

One of the best ways to quickly bring ads into compliance is to allow consumers a simple way to bypass your advertising. This can be by creating advertising that is more benefits-related and more in the content marketing realm than massive pop-ups, or even making video ads require user interaction in order to start playing. Better ditch those oversized pop-ups, too, or you’re going to find yourself on the wrong side of the CBA “lawmakers” and facing their “sanctions” — none of which are fully defined as of yet.