Google’s Heavy Ads

Google Chrome is the dominant web browser in the world with a 65% market share against the next best Apple Safari at 16%. Google‘s idea was to build a web browser that was fast and responsive with the best user experience possible. So it is with this in mind along with the Better Ads Standards, that Google has added a default setting live from late August to block ‘Heavy Ads’.

The Most Egregious Ads according to Google

Put simply, Heavy Ads are those ads that genuinely slow down the user experience and use too much battery or network data, without the user’s knowledge. Google states that they will be classifying ‘the most egregious ads’ as Heavy Ads. What this means is that any ad unit that uses more CPU or network bandwidth than 99.9% of all detected ads for that resource is a Heavy Ad. In particular, technical thresholds are as follows:

  • more than 4MB of network data
  • more than 15 seconds of CPU usage in any 30 second period
  • more than 60 seconds of total CPU

According to Google, ads that exceed the thresholds above account for 27% of network data used by ads and 28% of all ad CPU usage, even though they make up only 0.3% of ads.

If an ad does reach the threshold limits stated, Chrome will navigate to an error page, which will show within the frame of where the ad should have displayed. The error message when clicked will inform the user that the ad has used too many resources, here is an example from Google:

Google's Heavy ads message example

Unprepared AdTech Companies to suffer

First of all, we should say that many ad tech companies continually work on reducing their ad’s file sizes, CPU, and network usage, so the effect will be minimal to those companies who have prepared. Ad units that utilize rich media or long-form video may find themselves at the receiving end of being blocked. Google does make mention of ads that are unoptimized for network usage, that mine cryptocurrency, or are poorly programmed as examples of kinds of ads they are seeking to eradicate. 

It is those unprepared ad tech companies, advertisers, and publishers that risk wasting budgets and losing revenue from blocked Heavy Ads. There are many less sophisticated solutions that will need to work harder on their delivery and ad units to ensure they operate within the Heavy Ads thresholds. 

Browsers Are Now Taking Greater Control 

Google did include a measure in 2018 to block ads that repeatedly violated the Better Ads Standards on Chrome. Google also built in a ‘Heavy Ads Intervention’ toggle within Chrome, released in Chrome 80 earlier this year. This enabled users to block ads that use too many system resources.

Just before the Chrome 80 release, Chrome announced the phasing out of third-party cookies by January 2022. Apple Safari has blocked third-party cookies since 2017, while Mozilla Firefox made the decision in 2019. 

Ultimately, browsers are now taking greater control over the exposure of online advertising to users, including the privacy settings that enable and power the AdTech companies’ ability to reach their audiences.