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IAB New Ad Units: What's Next?

  |  March 13, 2001   |  Comments

The IAB voluntary guidelines for new ad units bring much-needed changes to the advertising options that keep publishers in business. Adam highlights some other changes that could take this improvement one step further.

Recently, the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) issued voluntary guidelines for new interactive marketing units:

New IAB Interactive Marketing Units

120
x
600
IMU
Skyscraper
160
x
600
IMU
Wide Skyscraper
180
x
150
IMU
Rectangle
300
x
250
IMU
Medium Rectangle
336
x
280
IMU
Large Rectangle
240
x
400
IMU
Vertical Rectangle
250
x
250
IMU
Square Pop-Up

These guidelines have come on the heels of the highly promoted new ad units on CNET and other large Web sites looking for new and better opportunities for online advertisers. Nothing like a bit of belt-tightening and job insecurity to get people off their asses and start making much-needed changes to the options for the advertisers that keep publishers in business.

This first step is not bad; it moves us toward the maturation of the online advertising environment. But the truth is that standardized ad units are still more for the benefit of the sellers of ad space than for the buyers. In some ways it's the repetition of a formula that didn't work the first time. To quote Randall Rothenberg of Ad Age, "In hindsight, though, that mid-'90s push to standardize banners seems utterly misplaced, for it was a supply-side effort that neglected the needs of the demand side."

Don't get me wrong, the old standard ad sizes definitely needed to be updated:

Existing Banner Units

468
x
60
IMU
Full Banner
234
x
60
IMU
Half Banner
120
x
240
IMU
Vertical Banner
120
x
90
IMU
Button #1
120
x
60
IMU
Button #2
125
x
125
IMU
Square Button
88
x
31
IMU
Micro Button

While adding new ad-unit standards does take an incremental step forward in improving the current online advertising climate, some other changes could take it one step further:

  • Open acceptance of rich media created with Flash as a standardized rich media format. Considering that 96.4 percent of worldwide users can see files created in this format, the industry should start thinking beyond ad dimensions; it's time to start thinking about the Web -- about relevant technologies that improve the overall Web experience.

  • Adoption of streaming frame rate limits rather than final file-size limitations. One of the main reasons publishers demand that online ads be of a specific (small) file size is obviously because they don't want the ads to interfere with the quick download of their Web pages, a requirement that users demand. Let's say that your typical online publisher demands that a user on a 56k modem be able to download an entire page with ads in 10 seconds. Let's be conservative and say that means a 5k-per-second download rate: 10 seconds x 5k = a 50k page, which is actually bigger than your average portal page weight. For the purpose of this discussion, what if publishers demanded that 12k of the ad be permitted to download in those key first 10 seconds, and that rich media ad units stream at a 5k rate after the first 10 seconds? This would allow advertisers to stream in files that are significantly larger than the existing file sizes while still being sensitive to page download.

  • Increased production values of online ads. By now, most of the available royalty-free photography has been used to death on the Web. While photo stock can do the trick, the Web has grown up enough to deserve better. The costs of online campaigns and Web sites are now a considerable investment. Allocating a small portion of that investment to original photography, illustration, and motion graphics can go a long way toward taking online advertising creative to the next level.
The industry never moves as fast as one would want, and often progress is the result of many small, incremental steps forward. Therefore, we should all be pleased, in a sense, that the dot-com fallout and decline of the Nasdaq are forcing everyone to work harder.

It seems that as the Web has become more mainstream, the tolerance for mediocrity has waned. The Net isn't new anymore, and tech-speak, gobbledygook, and "new economy" jargon have in many ways been exposed as so much smoke and mirrors that look or sound good in theory but don't work so well in practice.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Adam Jackson

Adam Jackson is a freelance Art Director in New York City. He has worked on top brands for several interactive ad agencies and with some of the top Internet marketing minds. He has worked with Sony, Lockheed-Martin, Best Buy, Ameritrade, Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, IBM, Valvoline, Monster.com, and a host of blue-chip Canadian brands. With five years of industry experience, and a few awards, Adam's career has grown with the Web.

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