Online Advertising Just Got Easier

China Ad Association Reduced No. of Formats to 199 From 170,000

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BEIJING ( -- The China Advertising Association has introduced guidelines to consolidate internet media advertising standards. The group hopes the new internet media advertising standards, in effect since Jan. 1, 2009, will make it easier for digital media companies to sell ads and reduce production costs.

Digital media has experienced rapid development in China, the world's largest internet market with 290 million users in November 2008, according to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. More than 80% of China's internet users have broadband connections. The number of internet users in China grows by nearly 240,000 per day, leading the ministry to predict there will be 500 million within four years.

In 2008, up to $2.3 billion was spent on digital media, based on GroupM estimates. That figure could grow by 35% in 2009. Even so, marketers in China invest less than 5% of their ad budgets in online media, according to Nielsen Co., about of what advertisers spend in the U.S., the world's No. 2 internet market.

Internet advertising in China "is still in the developing stage," said Chen Yong. "Ad formats are excessively complicated and the number of sizes of internet ads in the market has reached 170,000, which has led to great difficulty in the promotion and development of internet advertising." Mr. Chen is secretary-general of the association's Interactive Internet Advertising Committee (IIACC) in Beijing, as well as president and chief editor of Modern Advertising magazine, Advertising Age's Chinese licensing partner.

The guidelines have been welcomed by China's digital media industry. The committee reduced internet ad specifications in China's fragmented, chaotic digital media environment to 199 formats covering more than 80% of China's web sites. The association hopes to cut the number of formats further in the next six months.
Youku's Victor Koo
Youku's Victor Koo
"Setting online advertising standards is a step towards the right direction. One of the key complaints by clients and agencies about online advertising, especially for picture ads, is that production is a cumbersome process with all the different sizes and permutations," said Victor Koo, chief executive of Youku, one of China's leading online video sharing sites.

Online advertising should really learn from television, with its standard 15' and 30' commercials, he said. "We should focus more on ad creative and messaging rather than producing the same ad in different sizes. We are certainly pushing towards standardization for video and in-video advertising as well. It is encouraging to see that there are a lot less formats vs. picture ad formats, which should benefit the industry in the long term."

--Yang Jia Li contributed to this article.

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