NEWS Sponsorship Practices Shine with Release of Google Chrome Ad Blocker

March 2018

The most-used web browser in market is working to raise the bar for digital advertising. The Google Chrome Ad Blocker officially arrived on the web in February, ushering in enforcement of standards set by the Coalition for Better Advertising.

“Our goal to get rid of annoying ad experiences to make the internet a better,” said  Scott Spencer, Director of Product Management for Sustainable Advertising at Google.

To develop these standards, the Coalition surveyed 25K web users about what advertising they find irritating. And now, Google Chrome Ad Blocker features will block all ads on sites that repeatedly engage in the behavior that violates these standards. This includes ads that take up too much screen space, play audio automatically and/or obscure the content users are trying to view.

These behaviors render marketing less effective, and can reflect poorly on both the publisher and the advertiser. As Axios reported, “According to Google’s research, one-in-five Chrome feedback reports mentions annoying/unwanted ads [and] there were 5+ billion mutes from people using Google’s ‘mute this ad’ feature in 2017.”

Sponsor campaigns on won’t feel any negative effects of these new standards.

Director NPR Sponsorship Products, Erica Osher (Photo Credit: Stephen Voss for NPR)

“NPR’s digital sponsorship guidelines have prioritized user experience from day one, and have always barred the use of obtrusive advertising formats and practices,” says Director of Sponsorship Products for NPR, Erica Osher. So when the Chrome update rolled enforcing the Coalition’s guidelines, “we had to make no changes to our existing policies or digital sponsorship code in order to be compliant.”

NPR’s sponsorship team at National Public Media has advocates for better digital ad formats and increased transparency in digital, and has helped advance the industry in this direction by participating in industry working groups such as the IAB’s Lean Initiative. Osher shared more on how National Public Media approaches brand messaging across NPR and offered insight into the standards that guide NPR digital sponsorship, standards which have driven stand-out performance for brands in terms of viewability, time in view, CTR and interaction.


88.5% in-view rate on desktop
62% above industry average
(Source: Moat)


57 seconds in view time on average for desktop
Compared to the industry average 28 seconds (Source: Moat)


Q: What principles guide the way you design brand integrations on NPR digital platforms?

A: We find it essential that sponsorship is carefully and thoughtfully integrated into our digital platforms. We work closely with NPR’s digital media team throughout the product development process to determine how sponsorship can best fit into the experience and design. New sponsorship formats are heavily vetted internally for ethical, legal and user experience considerations. NPR user tests any new products and formats to ensure that the delineation between sponsorship and editorial is clear, and that sponsorship is not intrusive or overly disruptive to the experience.

When we added a responsive sponsorship unit on NPR story pages, the team worked to ensure that the placement of this sponsorship did not cause conflicts with the reading experience. The lead developer on the project designed a series of checkpoints to ensure that the sponsorship was not placed next to embedded tweets, videos or other assets that may cause confusion to the reader and that the placement was at the optimal location in the story to both allow the reader to become invested while maximizing viewability.



Q: How would you describe the user experience you aim to create with sponsorship on NPR digital platforms?

A: We always look for ways to ensure brand messages are clearly presented as sponsorship while still aligning with the design and functionality of the NPR ecosystem. We also seek to ensure transparency in the brand messaging itself to ensure NPR audiences know they will never be presented with deceptive messaging.

We are focused on developing products to help our sponsors tell their stories in a manner that would appeal specifically to the NPR audience, which enjoys sound-rich audio, fact-based narratives and noncommercial messaging.

At NPR, every ad creative is also vetted and verified by a person. We know exactly what creative is being served on our site and in our apps, which protects NPR and users from malware/spam ads. And we don’t use a system of resellers, just a few approved sources, so we know exactly where our ads are coming from. 


Q: How does this approach affect campaign performance for brands?

A: Limiting our ad load to one sponsor per page and focusing on high-impact sponsorship formats has led us to achieve higher than benchmark interaction rates across our digital properties. In our brand surveys, we find that NPR users feel positively about sponsors that they see on the NPR website.



Explore NPR Digital Sponsorship
The user experience with sponsor messaging has guided development across NPR platforms since long before Google Chrome Ad Blocker hit the web. It's an output of NPR and National Public Media's commitment to transparency for users, seamless integration of sponsor messaging and performance for sponsors.

This user-first, brand safe design makes more accessible than ever to 38.2 million monthly unique users. Learn more about this audience and how brands can extend campaigns to at the link below.