IAB Seeks Creative Rebirth for Banner Ads

The lowly banner ad is in for a makeover this year, and creative agencies have been invited to weigh in on the refresh.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), which oversees standards for display advertising, will convene its Ad Sizes Working Group by mid-summer at the latest, said CEO Randall Rothenberg. While the IAB’s banner guidelines are reviewed on a somewhat routine basis, this year will be different. That’s because the IAB will invite creative agencies into the process for the first time.

“Creative agencies were always missing from this conversation about standardization,” he said. “We’ll be revisiting some of the standards [and asking]… ‘Does this allow for great, aesthetically engaging powerful communications to take place?'”

The move could help close the gap between the interests of publishers, who require the sales efficiency afforded by standardization, and those of advertisers, many of whom have come to see banners as ineffective.

To aid its dealings with agencies, the IAB has set up an agency advisory board with both media and creative members. The new board will formalize an ongoing effort by the trade group to do more agency outreach.

An earlier agency board was created in 2003 with members such as Universal McCann, MPG/Media Contacts, and MediaVest, but was later disbanded. Rothenberg said agencies have become steadily more interested in helping develop ad standards that better serve all parties in the digital ad ecosystem.

“We have help, support and interest from very senior people in the advertising world, all of them very savvy,” Rothenberg said.

Creative agencies have already signaled their eagerness to assist with standards creation outside the IAB, for instance through agency initiatives such as “The Pool,” an effort by Publicis units Starcom MediaVest Group and Vivaki to use their media buying clout to establish creative standards in a variety of online channels, beginning with video.

All of this dovetails with the IAB’s declared “objective” to create a dialogue about the future of the Web as a creative medium. It’s an objective that’s begun to resemble a crusade. In a “manifesto” published to his blog last week, Rothenberg called on all players in the online ad ecosystem to unlock what he sees as the neglected creative potential of the medium. In the post he urges publishers, agencies, and marketers to strive for big ideas that are not only effective, but also beautiful and culturally significant.

“Let’s return to a time when advertising and media conversation was owned by the creatives, the editors, and the impresarios — when it was dominated by debates about the craft of persuasion, about what moves people,” he writes.

The salvo was timed in part to stimulate conversation ahead of the IAB’s upcoming annual meeting in Orlando, FL. The conference will bring together many of its members as well as leaders in the agency world.

“As a trade association, you don’t have any power,” Randall told ClickZ. “All you have is the ability to convene and slight bit of a bully pulpit. We don’t make the change happen, we bring companies together to bring consensus and make change happen.”

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