No Turf War on Video Standards Between IAB and Vivaki’s ‘The Pool’

Last week, when Starcom MediaVest Group and Vivaki announced plans to work with clients and major publishers on new standards for digital video ads, some wondered whether the holding company was muscling in on the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s turf.

The purpose of “The Pool,” as the agency project is named, is to leverage the combined budgets of major brands to test video ad formats with major media sellers like CBS Interactive,, Platform A, and Yahoo. The hoped for result, according to Tracey Scheppach, SVP, video innovations director at Starcom Worldwide, is to find the work horse of online video advertising — the equivalent of television’s 30-second spot.

Yet the IAB has been nothing if not active in developing universal ad specs for ads in video and other channels. Are the parties working at cross-purposes?

Both the IAB and Starcom/Vivaki say no. They insist The Pool is symbiotic with the IAB’s ongoing efforts to streamline the process for selling video media.

Those efforts have been extensive and go back at least four years. In May 2005 the group unveiled its first proposed guidelines for “broadband ad creative” in an in-stream format. Last year, it released a new version that for the first time included non-linear units like overlay ads and product placements.

“The Pool is about a process to accelerate spending to new platforms,” said Starcom’s Scheppach. “The IAB is more about creating consistency.”

Yet standards, by their very definition, must be simultaneously efficient and effective. Representatives of both the IAB and The Pool acknowledge the point, but say more testing is needed. And the IAB appears willing to cede the responsibility for that process. “There just is not enough research in digital video yet for us to come and say…we’ve arrived,” said Jeremy Fain, VP industry services at the IAB. “The Pool is something the IAB welcomes, because it’s testing the ad effectiveness of a number of formats. We see this as an additional piece of work that we really can’t do.”

Another important goal of The Pool is to systematically analyze different creative formats. The current variety of options available to publishers and brands amounts to “creative chaos,” Scheppach said.

“If you have too much creativity, especially in the early stages, things never get off the ground,” said Scheppach.

The IAB did not communicate with members of The Pool prior to the project’s unveiling last week, but has since reached out to them. “We wanted to get clarification from Vivaki on what exactly they meant when they talk about standards for ad formats,” said Fain.

Fain also pointed out that many members of The Pool sit on various IAB committees. For instance, Yahoo co-chairs the video committee that creates ad guidelines while also being involved with the Starcom/Vivaki agency project.

Fain said the trade group’s outreach to the agency community has increased recently, and the majority of guidelines it produces are vetted by agencies before their public release.

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