Internet

Bigger Web ads endorsed by industry

Seeking to raise online advertising's profile, an industry trade group that includes AOL, MSN and Yahoo endorses a new set of ad sizes that are larger than standard banners.

Seeking to raise the profile of online advertising, an industry trade group that includes members such as MSN, AOL and Yahoo endorsed a new set of ad sizes that are larger than standard Web banners.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau on Wednesday backed a "Universal Ad Package," which includes a new large ad size, as well as three sizes the bureau had previously recommended, which occupy broad space on a Web page. By promoting a uniform set of on-the-page ad sizes, the IAB hopes to simplify the buying and creative development process for agencies and advertisers, thereby mirroring mature markets such as print and TV.

The IAB is laying the ground work for uniformity at a time when online ad spending projections for the coming year appear positive, yet modest. In a recent report, industry research company eMarketer forecast slight annual growth in online ad sales for 2003, to $6.7 billion from an estimated $6.38 billion this year. Jupiter Research, another research company, predicts online ad spending will hit $6.2 billion in 2003, an 11 percent jump from $5.6 billion this year. Still, others say that declines will persist next year, continuing the slump that's followed the double- and triple-digit growth the industry enjoyed during the Internet boom days.

Despite the somewhat mixed forecasts, new research released Wednesday paints a rosier picture for online advertising when it comes to the buying habits of select clients.

Industries including human resources, computers and office equipment, publishing and retail have shifted a greater portion of their advertising dollars to the Internet in the last year. For example, in the first quarter of 2002 the employment sector allocated an estimated 41 percent of its $28 million in advertising funds to the Web, according to research from DoubleClick and Nielsen/NetRatings' AdRelevance. Retailers spent nearly 15 percent of their $3 billion-plus budgets online in the first quarter of the year.

"Conventional wisdom has it that most advertising spending has been 1 or 2 percent of the total online advertising budget," DoubleClick executive Doug Knopper said in a statement, "but according to these results, the reality is that some key categories are actually spending much more significant portions of their advertising budgets online."

Another area of growth is in rich-media advertising, which includes graphical animations, audio and video in the form of floating, overlay and full-page ads that interrupt the requested page. Rich-media ads will make up more and more overall advertising spending over the next five years, according to Jupiter Research. In 2003, it will take up 8 percent of advertising dollars, growing to an estimated 22 percent in 2007.

Floating ads atop Web pages are the most popular format among online publishers, according to Eyeblaster, a company that deals in rich-media ad technology. Eyeblaster provides ad management tools for customers including Yahoo, MSN, AOL and more than 400 ad agencies. In the last year, the major Web portals have bought into rich-media ad technology because it's more influential with marketers and Web visitors.

Many such rich-media ads complement or play within those endorsed by the IAB. The group set guidelines for four ads. They include a wide-length banner that spans the top of a page, which is new; a skyscraper set off to the right or left; a large square box set in the middle of a Web page; and a smaller square unit. Each can display 15-second animations.

Several members of a special IAB committee--which includes AOL, MSN, Yahoo and CNET Networks, publisher of CNET News.com--have agreed to adopt the new format, as well as the complete set of IAB ads. The IAB is soliciting of the new suggested standards, before it will introduce final specifications in February 2003. It expects its membership of publishers, which account for 75 percent of online-ad spending, to comply with the guidelines over the next 18 months.

"The Universal Ad Package will result in a stronger, more unified creative palette and will make it simple to reach a majority of the Internet audience," said Adam Gerber, chairman of the American Association of Advertising Agencies' interactive committee, which endorsed the guidelines.