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5 Questions with Neal Thurman, Director of Coalition for Better Ads

Coalition for Better Ads is an industry association that supports valuable free content, robust journalism, and social connections across the internet by helping set the standards for better advertising experiences.

We recently reached out to Neal Thurman, Director of the Coalition for Better Ads and the Co-founder of the Brand Safety Institute, to talk about the adoption of Better Ads Standards and creating better ad experiences. Prior to joining the Coalition, Neal has advised the US Federal Government, Sony Electronics, The McGraw-Hill Companies, AOL, Coca-Cola, and many more on major digital strategy initiatives and implementations.

What would you say to publishers who aren’t cleaning up their intrusive ad layouts for fear of revenue loss?

The Better Ads Standards are based on extensive consumer research about the ad formats they find most disruptive and annoying. Any entity that continues to use these ad formats risks alienating consumers and contributing to the use of ad blockers. We understand that adopting the Standards may involve change but publishers around the world have adapted successfully by putting the interests of consumers at the center of the online experience. We recently worked on a case study with German publisher Burda that highlighted the strong financial results of their approach to putting consumers first and adopting the Standards.

Are you happy with the rate of adoption of Better Ads Standards?

The Coalition for Better Ads was founded by trade associations and companies from across the online advertising supply chain that recognized the importance of improving the online ad experience for consumers. We have seen widespread adherence to the Better Ads Standards by publishers and ad tech vendors in markets around the world. Examples include leading programmatic companies pledging to only sell ads compliant with the Standards, publisher adherence to the Standards as measured by Coalition partners, cross-industry participation in industry certification programs that include the Standards, and other companies requiring adherence to the Standards are part of their business processes.

Can you update us on the Coalition’s research into video advertising formats?

The Coalition has been conducting research on consumer views of ad formats in short-form video (<8 minutes). This research involved a similar methodology to that used to develop the Better Ads Standards for desktop and mobile web with additional input from international working group of industry participants. Our research, involving 25 desktop and 20 mobile web ad experiences and over 45,000 surveys in 8 countries, was completed in September. We are in the process of completing our recommendations and plan to announce new Standards in the near future.  The Coalition announces Standards at least four months before they take effect.

What’s on the agenda for 2020 for the Coalition?

The Coalition will focus on rolling out short-form video Standards, completing a methodology and research plan for in-app advertising, developing a seal program for industry participants, and consider an update to our desktop and mobile web Standards.  We’ll continue our engagement with trade associations and companies around the world, highlight successful case studies, and promote best practices that improve the online ad experience for consumers.

What advice would you give to publishers going into 2020?

Put the consumer at the center of designing your entire digital experience including advertising. There are numerous ways for publishers to reflect the views of consumers as they improve the online ad experiences on their sites. We encourage publishers to get involved with the Coalition as members, through various working groups, as members of the Better Ads Experience Program, or by communicating their adherence to the Better Ads Standards.

5 Questions With is an interview series in which we ask industry leaders on both the buy- and sell-side about the ongoing issues in the ad tech industry.

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