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As Ad Blockers Spread, ​Online Ad Industry Admits It ‘Messed Up’

Perhaps ad blockers had something to do with it?

You may very well be seeing more headlines about ad blocking than actual ads, since ad blocking has basically become mainstream. In response to years of bloated, insecure ad tech that led Apple to topple ad mountain with a native content blocker, the Interactive Ad Bureau (IAB), the standard bearers of the online ad industry, released a statement saying that it "messed up."

"We lost sight of our social and ethical responsibility to provide a safe, usable experience for anyone and everyone wanting to consume the content of their choice," Scott Cunningham, VP of Technology at IAB, said.

Cunningham's apology also came with a set of guidelines (not rules) about how to develop ads for audiences that would sooner see them blocked. Those guidelines, called L.E.A.N., suggest that advertisers make their ads Light, Encrypted, Ad Choice Supported, and Non-Invasive.

These sets of rules already address several problems that lead people to ad blockers in the first place: malvertisement would be less an issue with encryption, lightness means that telecoms won't completely block ads in favor of countries with small data caps, and non-invasive ads would, well, stay where they belong: not in front of everything you want to see.

Will this get push online ad companies to make user experiences not miserable? We'll see. But the decision for a huge online ad organization to own up for years of supporting purely self-serving business decisions shouldn't be taken lightly.