Interstitial Ads Should Go Away in Seven Seconds

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Following up on the online advertising size guidelines it issued back in February, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) will issue voluntary guidelines for rich media formats today
See the full IAB guidelines with illustrations.
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that should give a strong indication of future direction for online advertising.

The earlier guidelines have gained definite traction with online publishers and advertisers. According to a June study by Jupiter Media Metrix's AdRelevance, 21% of sites it monitors were using some of the large IAB formats as opposed to 4% at the time the guidelines were announced.

Slow downloads
Rich media -- which employ animation and other techniques to make online ads less static -- are generally accepted as a more effective way to advertise, but they are complicated by bandwidth and technology issues. Some of the most interesting advertising can be excruciatingly slow to download, while the plethora of technologies has made for slow progress in the widespread adoption of rich media.

IAB President-CEO Robin Webster said she hopes the new guidelines will help advertisers "amortize the costs of new ads and hopefully spend more on media."

Indeed, much of the guidance the IAB gives in the new guidelines has to do with acceptable file sizes so that the user experience isn't disrupted. The guideline for a rich media banner, for instance, calls for the initial load to be no more than 15,000 bytes (15k), with an additional 85,000 (85k) bytes allowed if the user takes some action that indicates interest in the advertiser. The bureau came up with similar guidelines regarding the rectangle and skyscraper Interactive Marketing Units, pop-up ads and superstitials.

Seven second interstitials
Among the topics the bureau's Rich Media Task Force went over with ad agencies and vendors were the reasonable durations that a transitional ad -- also known as an interstitial -- should remain on a user's monitor. The IAB eventually came up with a standard of seven seconds.

The guidelines don't endorse particular technologies, however. "That's not what an association does," said Ms. Webster.

However, the association did come up with ways of generically supporting certain technologies that have found favor in the online advertising industry. One newly endorsed unit, for example, is very close to the Unicast superstitial, an online ad format popular with traditional advertisers such as Procter & Gamble Co. and Coca-Cola Co.

'A funny one'
Certainly, the group will have to continue to evaluate rich media on an ongoing basis. Said Jonathan Adams, a senior partner at WPP Group's Ogilvy Interactive who consulted on the guidelines, "Rich media is such a funny one because it changes all the time."

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