WEB INDUSTRY POISED FOR STANDARDS FIGHT PUBLISHERS, AGENCIES ARGUE CASIE PROPOSAL

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The drive to set guidelines to make buying Web ads easier is becoming a difficult process.

While marketers, agencies and publishers agree that Web advertising must get more efficient, there is disagreement over who should create the guidelines and if guidelines are the right way to go.

The turmoil stems from a proposal issued Oct. 3 by the Coalition for Advertising Supported Information & Entertainment, an ad industry group. The document called for creating six banner sizes and positions placed according to a grid system on a Web page.

The goal is to eliminate the dozens of banner sizes that exist today and thus decrease the amount of time agencies spend resizing ads to fit sites' specifications.

CASIE POLLS PUBLISHERS

CASIE last week began polling Web publishers about the idea.

The timing of the proposal surprised the Internet Advertising Bureau, a group representing sellers of online ad space. IAB is concerned that its effort to establish banner ad guidelines will be overshadowed by CASIE's proposal.

"The last thing we need is to have two different points of view out there," said Rich LeFurgy, acting chairman of the IAB and VP-director of advertising and marketing at Starwave Corp.

Agencies want to include other kinds of ad modules as standards. New York-based Poppe Tyson is pushing its "personal button," which downloads multimedia content in the background, so a user doesn't have to jump to a separate Web site.

With so many factions arguing, it's doubtful the industry will come to a consensus anytime soon.

REDESIGNING SITES

If the ad community adopts CASIE's proposal, many publishers will have to redesign their sites to accommodate the ads.

"We're a little apprehensive with the CASIE standards because we get higher click-throughs on unusually sized links and creative," said Paul Debraccio, VP-advertising for GeoCities, a conglomeration of content sites.

Other publishers feel differently.

Some agencies have "passed on responsibility [for sizing banners] to the site they're sponsoring," said Sarah Chubb, director of Conde Nast Publications' Conde Net, an IAB member. "It costs all of us time and money."

There is still a large faction of the Web population that claims any attempt to impose rigorous definition on the open standards of the Web is wrong.

"I don't think [the CASIE proposal] is a good idea," said Jeff Dachis, president-CEO of Razorfish Digital*Design, New York. "This isn't going to be the kind of medium where standards are going to be around very long."

But most believe standards are necessary to get more advertisers involved.

"Our view is that we're absolutely willing to conform to [ad] sizes that are standardized, and to do that so it will free up more money for more productive enterprise," said Martin Nisenholtz, president of The New York Times Electronic Media Co. and chairman of the CASIE committee that oversaw the guideline proposal.

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