GROUPS SET TO UNVEIL WEB AD GUIDELINES

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Two of the ad industry's most influential new-media groups this week will issue a landmark set of guidelines for creating Web advertising.

The Coalition for Advertising Supported Information & Entertainment and the Internet Advertising Bureau will recommend marketers and publishers use nine specific banner ad sizes on the Web, according to a draft statement obtained by Advertising Age.

EXPLORE OTHER AD MODELS

CASIE, an American Association of Advertising Agencies and Association of National Advertisers joint committee, and IAB, a new group representing sellers of online ad space, also will encourage the ad industry to explore other, more sophisticated ad models such as microsites and sponsored content.

The announcement, scheduled for Dec. 11 at IAB's fall meeting in New York, represents a significant agreement among advertisers, agencies and Web publishers concerning one of Web marketing's thorniest issues-the need for a simpler way to create and place ads.

There are nearly 100 different banner sizes and shapes on Web sites that take advertising, and advertisers and agencies must spend considerable time and expense resizing ads to fit different sites.

"If there were only five standard banner sizes, our clients could save anywhere from $200 to $3,500 per banner rotation on a 20- to 75-site media plan," said Alex Flagg, online media supervisor with Anderson & Lembke, San Francisco, who as of last week hadn't seen the final IAB-CASIE proposal. "This would allow us to refresh and test creative more frequently and deliver a more effective campaign."

DECRYING GUIDELINES

Others in the industry have decried an attempt to set guidelines, saying it's too early to impose rigid definition on a nascent industry. An earlier proposal, issued by CASIE in October without input from IAB (AA, Oct. 14), was criticized for focusing too narrowly on banners as a method of advertising.

The new joint proposal clearly straddles both sides of the fence: It recognizes the popularity of banners as a basic form of Web advertising and supports the development of newer, more creative ad forms.

The proposal suggests nine ad sizes: four types of rectangular banners (the most common banner ad shape), a square banner, three small "button" size banners and a vertical banner.

But the groups also want to encourage experimentation and recommend advertisers and publishers explore things like microsites (multipage areas accessed via an ad banner or button), content integration (advertising woven into a story line) and sponsored content.

EMPHASIS ON `VOLUNTARY'

CASIE and IAB are careful to position their proposal as a set of "voluntary guidelines." But because the groups comprise some of the nation's biggest agencies and advertisers and some of the Web's largest publishers, the proposed model will likely become an accepted way of advertising online.

"Who calls the tune? The advertisers. What they want prevails," said Bill Doyle, senior analyst at Forrester Research.

"We're at the point of using banner standards as a criterion for selecting Web sites," Mr. Flagg said. "The standards are so all over the place that we're asking sites, `Are you going to take a 468-by-60 [a common rectangular banner size]?' and if they say no, we definitely have to consider that in our selection criteria."

SURPRISING SPEED

The swiftness of the groups' agreement is surprising; as recently as October the two groups were working on separate plans, and IAB was caught off-guard by CASIE's earlier announcement.

This week's announcement represents the work of more than a dozen IAB members in conjunction with representatives of the Four A's and ANA.

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