IAB Approves New Ad Sizes

As expected, the Internet Advertising Bureau on Monday released a new set of online ad guidelines designed to boost the sagging industry and revive marketers’ interest in Web media.

According to the industry group’s vice chairman, Richy Glassberg, who is also chairman and chief executive of Phase2Media, the goal of the new ad types is “to help publishers, advertisers and their agencies make the Internet a more effective marketing medium.”

Glassberg oversaw the IAB task force responsible for rolling out new voluntary ad recommendations. The group had been anticipated to recommend that its users adopt larger and more obtrusive ad designs than it had in 1996, when it first approved the now-ubiquitous 468 x 60 banner ad. Seven new ad types are now added to existing ad types. The new designs include two vertical ads and five rectangular ads.

The sizes are a 120 x 600 “skyscraper,” a 160 x 600 “wide skyscraper,” a 180 x 150 “rectangle”, a 300 x 250 “medium rectangle”, a 336 x 280 “large rectangle”, a 240 x 400 “vertical rectangle” and a 250 x 250 “square pop-up” ad. The IAB also said it would no longer include the 392 x 72 pixel banner from its recommended sizes, since that size is rarely used.

According to the IAB, the new ad standards are designed to expand marketers’ options in online media. For one, the ads are simply larger — giving advertisers more screen real estate to work with. Additionally, the three horizontal “rectangle” sizes are in the same proportions — which could potentially allow marketers to easily reuse the same creatives in different ad sizes.

“The goal of the [IAB’s] Ad Unit Task Force is to help publishers, advertisers and their agencies make the Internet a more effective marketing medium,” Glassberg said. “The innovations … we are recommending offer the industry greater flexibility and expanded capabilities and choice for the creative community. We believe that their wide adoption will create a more effective medium, for cohesive branding and direct marketing campaigns.”

The new sizes also incorporate what has rapidly become a de-facto standard in the world of online advertising: the use of larger, and more obtrusive ads.

During the past several weeks, publishers ranging from CNET Networks to iWon.com have rolled out ads that are bigger and that appear flush right within an article’s contents. Internetnews.com’s parent, internet.com, also introduced similar ads on many of its properties.

While these publishers’ ads are roughly equivalent in size to the “large rectangle” type designated by the IAB, they all differ slightly from one another — and from the IAB’s eventual guidelines (which are somewhere between iWon.com’s 206 x 278 banner, and internet.com’s 360 x 300 ads).

Some industry watchers expected the IAB to integrate CNET’s 300 x 300 rectangle ad into its guidelines — an expectation that gained support when the New York Times Digital announced that it, too, would begin offering CNET-style ads. Ad sizes by the Walt Disney Internet Group’s ads — one of the first to roll out a larger ad design on its properties — also weren’t accepted wholesale.

“We recognize that sites will have to go through some site redesign if they deploy the new units,” IAB chief executive Robin Webster said in a letter to member companies. “But we believe that adopting some of the larger, interactive creative units will be for the betterment of publishers and marketers alike … which, of course, is the ultimate goal of the IAB.”

While the IAB’s guidelines are strictly voluntary, Glassberg hinted that they would be supported in coming months by the companies that participated in the task force — companies that included AOL Time Warner and the major portals, CNET, ad network DoubleClick and others. Indeed, the task force approved the new designs unanimously.

The IAB did shy away from recommending standards concerning the use of rich media. In fact, the group said it was recommending that publishers initially accept ad file sizes of only up to 15K to 20K — less than what’s typically required for rich media ads. It said that publishers and client could discuss larger file sizes on their own.

That’s also a difference from the new ad types rolled out independently by many publishers: CNET, Disney, internet.com and others have made their new sizes rich-media ready.

But despite the subtle differences from what various industry players are already using, the new, larger, standardized ads should be easier to design and easier to sell, Glassberg said — and that will help publishers boost flagging Internet media revenues.

“This is the first new advertising medium in 40-50 years. It has brand awareness like print and reach like TV, frequency like radio, and targeting like direct mail,” Glassberg said. “But it’s hard to sell, and it’s hard to buy.”

“I would say we made a big mistake by not doing it sooner,” he added. “But maybe the industry wasn’t ready. Maybe the time wasn’t right. But in the future, we’re going to do this every six months… You have to lead [marketers] from the front. You’ve got to give them better sizes.”

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