IAB unveils new online ad formats

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Seeking to make online ad creation and buying easier for agencies, marketers and publishers, the Interactive Advertising Bureau last month introduced four new ad formats that comprise its Universal Ad Package.

The UAP, which is recommended as a standard for the online ad industry, comes with a compliance seal that online publishers can use on their sites to signal their implementation of the new creative formats. The seal and compliance program are designed to streamline the online ad process by reducing the number of formats used by publishers and making the creative process consistent across sites.

"Now an agency doesn’t have to call 10 publishers and find out what ad sizes they take," said Greg Stuart, CEO of the IAB. "They can feel comfortable in the development process that these four ad units will reach the audience they want to reach."

Greg Smith, exec VP-director of media practices at Carat Interactive, said, "This standardizes things a lot more without cutting into creativity." He said that while the new ad units will help streamline the media-buying process through consistency, effective advertising will still come down to good creative work within the limits of the medium.

"Any good creative can work within any type of space. We need to look at how you can have an effective unit on a page without ruining the page for the user," he said.

"Now, as with a 30-second spot for TV, agencies can plan against a standard set of ad units," said Jonathan Adams, senior partner and group media director at WPP Group’s mOne Worldwide and chairman of the American Association of Advertising Agency’s Eastern Interactive Marketing and New Media Committee.

The UAP effort was initiated last year. In December, the IAB Ad Sizes Task Force recommended the four interactive ad sizes and conducted research on the proposed units among agencies, advertisers and online publishers. The new ad units measure 728 x 90, 300 x 250, 160 x 600 and 180 x 150 pixels. The four units were chosen based on customer feedback, usability studies, and brand and click performance tests.

Publishers that have agreed to implement the new units within the next 12 to 18 months include AOL Time Warner Inc., The Wall Street Journal Online, and CNet Networks Inc. Altogether, publishers that have agreed to use the new units serve 51% of the total online audience.

"It’s important to give publishers time to do it efficiently," Stuart said. "But the real issue is, agencies have to jump on this thing."

He said the new formats, which are larger than standard banner ads, will give advertisers and their agencies more space in which to create compelling messages.

TV-like commercials

Separately, last month, online technology company Unicast, New York, introduced the Full Screen Superstitial, which is different than the new online ad formats proposed by the IAB. The Full Screen Superstitial is a 15-second, 300K online ad format that plays between Web pages and moves advertisers closer to TV-like commercials.

A study of the effectiveness of the new unit, conducted by research firm Dynamic Logic, found that its use had a significant impact on four brand metrics: brand awareness, message association, brand favorability and purchase intent.

"The latter two are harder to move," said Molly Hislop, VP-research services at Dynamic Logic. "It’s much harder to persuade someone to change attitudes."

She said the Full-Screen Superstitial ads are less intrusive than pop-up ads because they play between pages, rather than popping up on a page during a Web session and sometimes interrupting the user. "The unfortunate thing about pop-up ads is that a few sites really abused the frequency and gave the entire format a bad reputation," Hislop said.

"As these new full-screen ads enter the market, it’s wise for publishers to manage the inventory. The value is huge as long as users don’t feel they’re inundated with it," she added.

The Full Screen Superstitial is part of Unicast’s Online Format Suite, which includes Superstitial Over-Page ads (dynamic HTML and floating ads) and In-Page ads (banners, skyscrapers and boxes).

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