Acceptable Ads – The Next Evolution

In 2022, we celebrate 10 years of Acceptable Ads and unveil the future of the Standard and the Committee

Over the last 10 years, the Acceptable Ads (“AA”) Standard has sparked an important industry dialogue around the role of user experience in making online advertising and publishing sustainable.

Governed by the independent Acceptable Ads Committee (“AAC”) since 2017, the AA Standard is now the default ad experience for roughly a quarter-billion internet users. And over half of the top 100 publishers in the US now serve Acceptable Ads to opted-in ad-blocking users, generally with the help of an adblock recovery partner.¹

Now, on the 10th-year anniversary of the AA Standard, I’m excited to announce that both the Standard and the Committee will be undergoing major evolutions over the coming months.

A newly compliant ad unit will bring a meaningful revenue lift for publishers monetizing with Acceptable Ads

Starting in early 2021, the AAC began conducting exhaustive research that studied over 9,000 ad-blocking and ad-filtering users globally, measuring their attitudes toward display ads that appear “in-content”, i.e. between paragraphs of an article or in an image gallery.

The AAC’s board chose this research topic for a combination of reasons:

  1. No implementation of in-content ads was then compliant.
  2. There was no robust data around user acceptance of different implementations of in-content ads, e.g. different sizes, animated vs. static, etc.
  3. In-content ads are extremely common because they perform well for publishers, and thus represent a significant portion of their ad inventory. Some publishers were missing out on over half of their monetization opportunities without in-content ads.

Finally completed in late 2021, the research yielded intriguing findings – namely, a number of in-content ad implementations studied were rated ~75-80% acceptable by users, exceeding the 70% acceptability threshold required by the by-laws of the AAC for a format to be deemed acceptable.

Upon reviewing the study’s results in late 2021, the AAC’s board approved the drafting of a proposal to make some of these eligible formats compliant, and on December 15, the proposal was publicly posted for a 1-month user feedback period.

Finally, the user feedback was evaluated by the AAC’s board, and on Wednesday of this week, the board (including representatives from the user coalition) voted unanimously to approve the ad types included in the proposal.

This marks a milestone for the AAC: the first update to the desktop Standard in 10 years. And early beta tests show strong improvements in monetization; one top-10 Comscore publisher has seen their Acceptable Ads revenue triple in small-scale testing of the newly compliant ad units. 

By evolving the Standard to improve its commercial viability without impacting the integrity of the user experience, the Committee has made great strides towards its objective of making the Web more sustainable for all stakeholders.

Over the next month, this update to the Standard will be communicated to all Acceptable Ads partners to ensure proper implementation and enforcement by ecosystem participants.

And as President of the AAC, I want to sincerely thank the following people for making this happen:

  • My fellow AAC board members (Laura Beaupre, Linda Sherry, Trevor Heal and Zack Sinclair) for their balanced and data-driven decision making;
  • The committee support team for helping to make the study a reality; and 
  • The Blockthrough team and its customers, who flagged this opportunity to the Committee and furnished the AAC with a forecast of the publisher revenue impact of in-content ads.

We look forward to hearing more success stories from publishers launching acceptable in-content ads!

Evolving the Committee – Search underway for our next President

This time last year, I informed the AAC’s board that, following the completion of the in-content ads study, I planned to step down from the AAC presidency to focus on my day job.

When I was elected to the presidency as a volunteer in 2018, my top objective was to improve the Standard in a way that would make the web more sustainable.

With that goal accomplished, and with my company growing to 43 people (up from 7 when I took over the presidency!), I knew I was reaching the limits of the impact I could have as AAC President.

With that in mind, I recommended that the Committee seek out a dedicated, paid President to lead the AAC to the next stage in its evolution. The Committee unanimously approved the recommendation, and we shared the JD for the role with you recently.

Our search is underway, so if you know anyone with a strong blend of experience in online advertising, online publishing and user advocacy, your referrals are welcome:

The AAC is maturing fast, and with the right leadership, I believe we can continue delivering on our mission to create a web that’s truly sustainable for all stakeholders.

We are always eager to incorporate more perspectives into our decision making, if you’d like to join the Committee, you can do so by applying here:


¹ 2021 Pagefair Adblock report

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