The Acceptable Ads criteria: an explainer

The ad formats approved by Acceptable Ads are designed to be nonintrusive and respectful—the opposite of the glittery, neon banner ads and pop-ups whose proliferation prompted an earlier generation to adopt a scorched-earth approach to ad blocking. 


But what’s the meaning behind words like “nonintrusive” and “respectful”? What does it mean to be the opposite of obnoxious? 


What makes an ad…an Acceptable Ad?


The Acceptable Ads Standard isn’t built on generalizations. Instead, it’s based on a number of unshakable criteria, which work in tandem to create strong, defining answers to these questions.


The pillars that uphold the Acceptable Ads Standard are built around three main topics: placement, distinction, and size.


The big three

The topic of placement explains in no uncertain terms that “ads should not disrupt the natural reading flow.” This means that ads need to be placed above, beside or below the primary content. 


And it’s important that these ads be visibly distinct from the primary content as well. The category of distinction states that “ads should always be recognizable as ads”, which means they need to be clearly marked as “advertisement.” The user must be able to differentiate ads from other content in order to preserve a respectful browsing experience.


The rules that dictate size are numerically specific, and apply to both the size of the ads themselves and the amount of screen space they occupy. 


Let’s start with screen space: if an ad is visible in the browser window when the page first loads, it can’t occupy more than 15% of the visible portion of the web page. And, if the ad is placed further down on the page, it can’t occupy more than 25% of the visible portion of the webpage. Again: the name of the game is a pleasant, respectful browsing experience.


When it comes to the size of the ads themselves, it’s important to factor in questions of placement and size. An ad can only be:

  • 200 px high when placed above the primary content
  • 350px wide when place to the side of the primary content, or
  • 400px high when placed below the primary content

But wait, there’s more:
Although these three categories are comprehensive, additional points were inserted to make absolutely sure that Acceptable Ads’ criteria built the foundation of a browsing experience free from intrusion, distraction or confusion. 


For example, text ads can’t be designed with excessive use of color or other obnoxiously eye-catching elements. (Remember those neon, glittery banner ads? The idea is to avoid a repeat of those at all costs.) And ads on pages without primary content—think error or parking pages—have different size and placement regulations, as do mobile ads, in-feed ads and search ads. 


The Acceptable Ads criteria have been carefully designed and calibrated to ensure that the browsing experience, after consenting to be served respectful and non-obnoxious advertisements, is one that lives up to its promise: unobtrusive, streamlined, clear and above all acceptable.


Curious? Want to learn more about the Acceptable Ads criteria? Take a look through our in-depth criteria description and analysis.

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