Buyers and sellers embrace new ad formats

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Online advertising buyers and sellers say new online ad formats and rich-media guidelines being developed by the Interactive Advertising Bureau will make the Web an easier-to-use and more effective advertising medium.

The newest ad format, proposed by the IAB in December, is a large horizontal ad unit measuring 728 by 90 pixels. That unit and three existing IAB-proposed ad formats—the "leader board," vertical skyscraper and rectangular unit—are collectively called the Universal Ad Package.

The ad package is designed to make online advertising easier to buy and provide a larger creative palette to communicate information, according to the IAB.

The guidelines include standard file sizes, formats, animation length and audio requirements. They were based on ad effectiveness research by Marketing Evolution and are endorsed by the American Association of Advertising Agencies.

The IAB is now collecting feedback on the ad guidelines, and the association will issue a comprehensive report to advertisers and agencies later this month. A feedback form is available at

Web publishers are expected to comply with the guidelines within 12 to 18 months, the IAB said.

"This is a really positive move for the industry," said David Shen, VP-user experience and design at Yahoo! Inc. and a member of the IAB ad sizes committee. Shen is also chairman of the IAB’s rich-media task force, which is expected to release guidelines for rich-media ads this year.

"We want to make ad creation faster and more efficient for advertisers and their agencies," said Shen, referring to the importance of standardizing interactive ad formats.

Yahoo! has already implemented the four new ad sizes across its network of sites, and is now providing feedback to the IAB for evaluation. Other publishers on the ad size committee include AOL Time Warner Inc., Microsoft Corp.’s MSN network and CNet Networks Inc.

Shen said the rich-media task force is now working with vendors to develop specifications for rich-media ads. He said it was too soon to release any details on what the specifications will encompass.

Still work to be done

Media planners say ad format guidelines help them work with advertising clients and Web publishers, but there are still obstacles to overcome.

"A lot of times publishers haven’t implemented the standards to the letter of the law," said Sasha Pave, VP-director of technical design at ad agency Carat Interactive.

"In some cases, we’ll work with publishers to adopt the guidelines, as well as work with other guidelines," Pave said, pointing to guidelines for Macromedia Flash established by the Macromedia Flash Advertising Alliance.

Another problem with rich media is the variance in file formats by different online publishers, he said.

"One publication might have a 20K file size restriction, and another publisher might have a 30K file size restriction," Pave said.

Rich-media vendors agree there’s a need to standardize ad formats.

"A maturity is beginning to creep into the business that has been needed for a long time," said Dick Hopple, chairman-CEO of Unicast, a rich-media vendor that supports the IAB effort to develop rich-media guidelines. "There does seem to be a fairly firm recognition that one of the foundations of effective marketing is standardization."

Until the IAB releases its rich-media guidelines, publishers continue to develop new online ad formats that use audio, video, animation and other rich-media elements in ways that comply with existing standards.

For example, last month SF Interactive launched an ad format called Ad3, which complies with the Interactive Ad Package and delivers sound, video and 3D animation in an on-page ad without requiring the user to leave the Web page. Clients working with the new format include Cisco Systems Inc., VeriSign Inc. and Quantum Corp.

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