New IAB Broadband Video Guidelines: Are They Enough?


On Tuesday, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) announced its “final” advertising creative guidelines for broadband video commercials.

Primarily, these guidelines address in-stream video appearing in live, archived, or downloadable content. They’ll affect IAB member publishers and technology providers, who will seek compliance (and that lovely seal), as well as advertisers and agencies seeking planning and production efficiencies for their video advertising.

It’s great to have guidelines, but just what will the ramifications be for the industry? Are these guidelines enough? Let’s look at the highlights.

Length Standards

Guideline: Pre- and mid-roll commercials have a :30 limit; post-roll ads can customize length.

What it means: Most advertisers should avoid those :30 spots. Sure, sending that TV spot tape over to a publisher is easy, but resist the temptation. The Internet’s on-demand nature has trained people to consume what they want, when they want it. Advertisers must realize they interrupt that flow and must therefore deliver their messages as concisely as possible. If that can be done in 12 seconds, it will likely be better received — and with more goodwill.

Entertainment advertisers are lucky. People are much more tolerant of :30 spots for movies, music, and TV, so keep on keeping on.

The :30 limit is much appreciated. Not only does it work for viewers, it ensures exceptions aren’t made for higher paying advertisers.

Minimum Encoded Bit Rates

Guideline: Encoded bit rates must be at least 200 Kbps.

What it means: For the layperson, 200 Kbps is traditionally the broadband speed magic number. Although that number seems to increase with every new wireless or high-speed protocol, 200 Kbps is a start. It’s likely this minimum will grow over time. Right now, however, it ensures minimal quality isn’t compromised to save bandwidth.

Though the burden of adhering to this minimum is on publishers and technology providers, advertisers and agencies must be aware of video quality. This minimum leaves less to the unknown, but as consumers become more accustomed to high-definition (HD) video via the upcoming HDTV standard and as commonly available bandwidth increases, we must kick online video’s minimum quality up a notch.

Player Control Standards

Guideline: The minimum available player controls should be start/stop, volume on/off, and softer/louder. Other recommended and acceptable buttons include fast-forward/rewind, pause, and zoom. All buttons should be enabled throughout play with the exception of fast-forward.

What it means: Bravo. Finally, consumers will know what to expect when they launch that media player. Of course, they can’t skip the commercial. That’s a no-no. But standardizing the buttons needed to interact with it infuses the comfort necessary for consumers to accept the experience.

Panel Size Minimums

Guideline: The recommended minimum video panel size is 300 x 225, which allows broadband video commercials to fit in the 300 x 250 standard ad unit (with room for a 25-pixel tall control bar). In terms of other sizes, either a 4:3 aspect ratio (400 x 300) or 16:9 aspect ratio (720 x 480), which follows National Cable Television Association (NCTA) guidelines, is recommended.

What it means: Lots of numbers. It ensures the continued standard for online video will continue to conform to TV standards, for better or worse. I fear this standard will become an enabler for advertisers to continue to repurpose existing TV spots for online use. Although this is acceptable in many situations, I still firmly believe the true value of online video can only be realized by custom-produced video.

Interactivity Standards

Guideline: Broadband video commercials may have interactivity and hot-spotting and may link to more information.

What it means: I’m still trying to figure this one out. The IAB is saying we can make online video interactive and clickable and link it to other sites. We’ve been doing that with banner ads for 10 years. But if it must be mentioned for continuity, I guess it has validity. The vagueness will have to be clarified and re-clarified as new technologies are developed.

All in all, these standards appear to be a valiant first effort in getting the industry to adopt an online video standard. Most of the merit is in production, eliminating confusion among publishers, technology providers, advertisers, agencies, and production and post-production facilities.

What’s missing? In future iterations, we’ll likely see these standards include guidelines for contextual targeting (it’s coming); advertising around consumer generated video; reporting (please); content (please, no); and serving.

If I know the IAB, the committee’s already got meetings lined up for the next round.


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