This blog was updated in 2024. For the latest information on the independent Acceptable Ads Committee, please head to acceptableadscommittee.org
The Acceptable Ads Committee (AAC), the independent committee that creates ad standards for ad-filtering users, is constantly at work identifying the needs and gaps of desktop and mobile-specific advertising criteria.
This sort of self-regulated committee, which determines standards by identifying the best advertising experience, is something that is relatively new to the advertising industry. Thus, the question of how the criteria-development process actually works and how users are integrated into this process is of the highest importance. This blog would like to run down the basics of the AAC’s efforts at creating advertising standards that are changing the online ecosystem.
As mentioned, the AAC is a self-regulated organization. It represents three distinct groups: The User Advocate Coalition, the Expert Coalition and the For-Profit Coalition. This committee has full control over the Acceptable Ads criteria; i.e. what is deemed acceptable for the millions of users who have installed ad-blocking software but are amenable to seeing less intrusive ads. Read more about the AAC here.
As its core function, the AAC determines the Acceptable Ads standard: a set of criteria for nonintrusive, respectful ads. These standards deal with the size, position and labeling of ads. If an ad complies with the standard, it is allowlisted by participating ad-blocking software, i.e. it can be served to the users of this software because it fits to their standards. All users of software with Acceptable Ads integrated can of course choose to block all ads if they prefer.
Before a new advertising standard is created within the AAC, it has to go through several phases. In the Ideation phase, the suggestions submitted by Representatives have to be based on neutrally derived data,for instance, following a research study commissioned by the AAC to an independent party. This data can specify information on new types of ads, as well as the evolution of existing ad types.
Once a hypothesis is established, the discussion phase allows members to share their ideas and concerns regarding the suggested changes.
The hypothesis is turned into a proposal and posted online. This marks the beginning of the user-feedback phase where users get one month to provide further suggestions. The user feedback then is collected and taken into consideration by the AAC.
After that, there is a decision by vote, and if consensus is found, the AAC reaches an agreement and the approved agreement is presented to an Adblock Agent to deliver to the Executor. Find more information in the Bylaws.
The process in practice: mobile-specific criteria
The AAC meets semi-annually to discuss trends in the advertising and technology industry and decide on new acceptability criteria. Since the inception of Acceptable Ads, it had become apparent that the criteria were not fit-for-purpose for the smaller screens of mobile devices, so following their first meeting in July 2017, the AAC commissioned a study on mobile-specific ads to define new criteria for mobile.
After surveying about 2,000 ad-blocking mobile users, results from 12 different ad types, which included banner ads, tile ads, native ads, interstitial ads and expandable ads were gathered.
“To determine each respondent’s level of disruption towards different ad types, the survey utilized a five-point scale for individual ad ratings […]. Respondents indicated for each of the 12 different ad types their level of disruption[…].” (Mobile Advertising Study 2018). For more on the study, click here.
The results of the study underwent a preliminary review by the research sub-committee of the AAC, and at their next meeting in April 2018, in New York, the Committee reviewed the results in their entirety. The findings summarized that many formats remained highly disruptive in the mobile context, yet there are some formats that are not disruptive and should therefore be allowed, with specific rules in place.
Based on the findings of the study, the AAC drafted criteria for mobile acceptable ads which were shared with the ad-blocking community to receive and collect additional feedback.
The mobile criteria were finalized and published on 31 July 2018, enabling more effective monetization of mobile web users for publishers and solutions participating with Acceptable Ads.
Learn more about the Standard and the Committee at https://acceptableadscommittee.org