IAB Rolls Out ‘Universal Ad Package’

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) announced Wednesday that its ad-sizing committee recommended a standard suite of four ad sizes for publishers, the Universal Ad Package, to give agencies an easy and efficient way to design online ads to run across a number of sites.

“There’s certainly been a recommendation we’ve heard very loudly that we need to make the business more effective and more efficient,” said Greg Stuart, IAB’s president and chief executive. “And at the end of the day, I think it’s the publishers responsibility to do that.”

Adam Gerber, interactive committee chairman of the American Association of Advertising Agencies (AAAA), supports the standards, saying they “will result in a stronger, more unified creative palette and will make it simple to reach a majority of the Internet audience.”

The committee, which includes AOL, MSN, Yahoo! and CNET Networks, settled on four large sizes, including a brand-new ad size that would be the largest IAB has endorsed, sending the clear message that, in its opinion, bigger is better for online ads.

The Universal Ad Package, which is a subset of the 15 ad sizes on which the IAB has guidelines, includes four sizes of ads: a 160 x 600 “wide skyscraper,” a 300 x 250 “medium rectangle,” an 180 x 150 “rectangle,” and a 728 x 90 “leader board.” This is down from the six sizes recommended when the IAB last issued guidelines, in February 2001.

Notably absent from the list of specifications is the 468 x 60 banner — or the “much-maligned banner,” as Stuart jokingly called it. While defending its effectiveness, Stuart said agencies felt the industry needed to move in a different direction, to larger and more innovative formats. He also said the banner had developed a stigma, as the symbol of online advertising’s problems over the last two years.

“It’s premature to say for sure where it will end up,” he said. “If it dies, we’re not going to be crying for it.”

The IAB will solicit feedback from members over the next two months at its Web site. Stuart said that, after some tweaks, the package would be presented to agencies and advertisers in February, with publishers expected to reach compliance over the next year to 18 months.

The year to 18-month window gives publishers time to alter their content management systems to accept the standard formats, Stuart said.

The Universal Ad Package will also include IAB guidelines for such things as file weight (in GIF/JPEG and Flash), animation length and audio.

The newest and largest format is the leader board, which was pioneered by CNET. Stuart credited the IAB’s chairman, Shelby Bonnie, for his leadership on the issue.

“People at the top of each one of the major Internet businesses have worked for Shelby,” noted Stuart. “He’s quite a force in getting stuff like this done.”

Jeff Bernstein, MSN’s director of ad planning and the committee’s chairman, praised the cooperative work of the committee’s other members for working together to make the changes necessary for the industry to move forward.

“There was a ton of cooperation on this,” he said. “There was a general recognition among the publishers that we’re not just battling each other but we’re also battling other media” for advertising dollars.

Bernstein said the committee’s member companies solicited agency feedback and shared their own research into how users’ perceived and interacted with various sizes, determining which were the most effective.

The online ad industry still faces a host of nettlesome standards problems, according to AAAA’s Gerber, including rich media, streaming and broadband specifications.

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