Chrome’s Heavy Ad Intervention: Here’s How We’re Solving It

To say we're bombarded by ads in today's world is an understatement. Digital marketing experts estimate that we can see between 4,000 and 10,000 ads per day.

Digital consumption rose dramatically during the pandemic with an increase of 70% in web browsing and 61% in social media. While longer time spent online means a higher opportunity for publishers to serve ads, it also increases the likelihood of consumers seeing distracting or disruptive advertising.

As a member of the Coalition of Better Ads Google has long been an advocate for blocking ads that hamper the user experience. But Google took in one step further in fall 2020 with the release of the Heavy Ad Intervention (HAI).

In this blog you’ll discover what the HAI is, how it’s affecting publishers, and the new and improved way to tackle the initiative while combating revenue losses.

What is Google Chrome’s Heavy Ad Intervention?

Heavy ads are resource-intensive ads. They can range from malicious ads to genuine content with performance issues or non-optimized content. To tackle this, Chrome has implemented an intervention that limits the resources a display ad can use before serving on the page. 

Marshall Vale, Product Manager at Chrome, said a fraction of a percent of ads consume a disproportionate share of device resources, such as battery and network data, without the user knowing about it. These ads can drain battery life, saturate already strained networks, and cost money.

An ad is classes as “heavy” is the user has not interacted with it and it meets any of the following conditions:

  • Uses the main thread for more than 60 seconds in total
  • OR Uses the main thread for more than 15 seconds in any 30-second window
  • OR Uses more than 4 megabytes of network bandwidth

When an ad meets or exceeds this criteria, the iframe where the heavy ad would have appeared is replaced with an "Ad removed” message.

Why is it needed?

A positive user experience is vital. As soon as one publisher starts pushing intrusive ads they can ruin it for all publishers, as consumers may be tempted to install ad blockers. This is a prevalent problem as 42.7% of internet users worldwide report using an ad blocker. 

Even though Google reported that only 0.3% of ads exceed the criteria necessary to be removed, they account for 27% of network data and 28% of all ad CPU usage. This causes several problems for the user including slow page speed, high data consumption, reduction in device batter, slow device reaction, etc.

The HAI aims to minimize these experiences by stopping heavy ads in their tracks.

How does it impact publishers?

The Heavy Ad Initiative is impacting publishers to varying degrees and includes loss of revenue, not meeting campaign expectations, loss of clients, etc. Not ideal.

While publishers want to protect their own site visitors, these retracted ads and the error message left behind leaves a negative impression of the website and affect their bottom line.

Not meeting campaign expectations is another large concern. If an advertiser’s impression is removed it might still report as being served. Campaign results will be down and your clients may decide to stop working with you, despite it being their content that caused the poor performance.

How publishers are handling the heavy ad initiative

While Google are playing their part in curbing ad blocker usage - a huge win for publishers - the loss in revenue in less than ideal. So there are a few things publishers can do on their end to limit the number heavy ads being served, such as:

  • Only partner with demand sources (ad networds, exchanges, etc) that have processes to prevent heavy ads.
  • If you show firsty-party ads on your website, put in place a Reporting API and monitor regulary to remove any resource intensive ads.
  • Update your ad specifications documents to include HAI standards.
  • Educate advertisers, if you can, about the Heavy Ad Initiative and how it can affect their campaign performance. Encourage them to test their campaigns using ad validation tools such as Advalidation.

But even with these processes in place, heavy ads may still slip through the net and those pesky grey boxes on your site are ultimately affecting your bottom line. 

To maximize revenue you need a way to stop those heavy ads from causing a loss in the first place!

The new and improved way to tackle the Heavy Ad Initiative

With the current initiative, a consumer will continue to see a grey box with the words "Ad removed" until their session is over. As we’ve mentioned already, this can cause several problems for publishers - the main ones being loss of revenue and a negative impression of your website and content.

Boltive’s Ad Lightning technology solves this by refreshing the slot as soon as we detect that Chrome is going to block the ad. With this refresh you improve the user experience and remonetize your ad slot faster. 

Our reporting also makes it really east to see how often the HAI is removing ads. Our Blocking High Volume Hourly alert will let you know if there is an issue with a high rate for a specific signature. From there you can take steps to stop these ads being blocked in future, improving your customer relationships and improving campaign performance.

It’s a win-win for you, your clients, and your website visitors!

Find out how you can improve user experience, increase revenue and better campaign performance with Boltive’s Ad Lightning.