IAB investigates online ad size shake-up

With Internet banner advertising being seen as increasingly passé, the US Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) has come up with a solution to address the problem of anti-banner sentiment: Make them bigger.

The IAB, a leading industry body, recommended that the standard 392 x 72 pixel banner be discontinued from its existing list of banner-size guidelines. It also announced voluntary rules for seven new ad units - two vertical "skyscrapers" and five large rectangles.

The larger banners are designed to enable marketeers to jazz up their advertising by employing greater creativity and, it hopes, increase click-through rates which are currently languishing in the doldrums.

The new sizes have already been adopted by some sites - Internet.com, CNet Networks Inc.and New York Times Digital, which is running skinny 140 x 800 banners on its site.

But bigger ads means bigger file sizes, so the IAB has got agreement that all sites offering these new sizes will accept a load of 15k for the skyscrapers and 20k for the rectangles. Larger file sizes may also be agreed in the future.

A consequence of using different ad spaces is that there is potential for using banners in a more interactive way. For example, "in-ad browsing", where a user clicks the ad for more information which loads inside the space rather than skipping to a new site.

These new formats can also deliver more sophisticated measurement to the advertiser. Some of the new ads track user interaction, providing more detailed metrics than simple click-through rates.

Richy Glassburg vice-chairman of the IAB claimed the move was intended to shake the industry up a bit. "We quite clearly recognise that these guidelines for new units, in some instances, will require publishers to undergo some degree of site redesign. That's not a bad thing."

As to what media owners think, the jury is still out. Judy Gibbons, European vice president of MSN says, "It is clearly a case of one size not fitting all." As to whether MSN will run the new banners across its sites, Gibbons explains that it depends on what the end users think about them. "We need to sit down with our customers and look at the data and analysis," she says, but feels "pretty certain we will use them in some context... We may use them in markets like Germany where there is wider access to broadband, but not in Spain, where people operate on narrowband."

Carl White of ad sales house 24/7 says, "I can't see what all the fuss is about. Our view is that it is a sign that the market is maturing. The more creativity we can offer, the more brand advertisers like the Procter and Gambles of this world will be spending." He says that 24/7 Europe has not sold any of the new banners yet and that "agencies are still trying to get their heads around it".

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