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Internet

Sizing up banner ads

Advertisers and Web sites agree to simplify online advertising with a voluntary standard that reduces the number of banner sizes from some 250 to 8.

NEW YORK--Mainstream advertisers and major Web sites have agreed to simplify online advertising with a voluntary standard that reduces the number of banner sizes from some 250 to 8.

The 8 standard dimensions will be proposed as voluntary guidelines at tomorrow's fall meeting of the Internet Advertising Bureau, a new 130-member trade association for online publishing. Today's announcement was made here at the Internet World industry conference.

"The proliferation of banners has created a massive problem for advertisers and their agencies, which sometimes have to create their ads in 50 or more sizes," said Mike Donahue of the American Association of Advertising Agencies. That group and the Association of National Advertisers formed the Coalition for Advertising Supported Information & Entertainment, which represented big advertisers and major ad agencies in talks with the IAB.

But the compromise, though voluntary, may raise the hackles of those who think it's too early to dictate banner sizes. The proposal suggests eight sizes: three rectangular ads, one square banner, three "button" ads, and a vertical banner.

In October, the coalition unilaterally issued its own banner guidelines, creating a controversy among Web publishers because the IAB--their new trade group--had been discussing a joint recommendation. The coalition backed off its proposal.

While the new guidelines are voluntary, advertisers and their agencies are likely to push them as a cost-saving measure. "This will make it easier for agencies and advertisers to develop advertising and will further establish the Web as a viable mass medium," said Richy Glassberg, who led negotiations for the bureau.

But analyst Mary Modahl of Forrester Research downplayed the long-term impact of the accord.

"This is not an earth-shattering event. Banner advertising itself is really giving way to other forms so rapidly. By the time they get banner ads set, guess what? There's a whole different breed of advertising," Mohdal said.

To that end, the coalition and the bureau also encouraged the industry to explore new forms of Web advertising that move beyond the now-ubiquitous banners, including advertiser-sponsored content areas. The two groups will convene six conferences next year, three on each coast, to discuss the voluntary standards and new formats, as well as to release additional proposals if needed.

In other ad-related news at Internet World:

  • IAB tomorrow will report results from its first survey of ad spending on the Internet, based on figures submitted anonymously by Web sites and audited by accounting firm Coopers & Lybrand.

  • Bellcore will unveil a new version of its Adapt/X Advertiser software, which dynamically places ads on Web sites, targeted to users and the Web page's content. ADSmart, a new ad network spun out of the Lycos search engine site, will discuss similar capabilities.

  • PR Newswire will announce its own network for selling ads on other business and media Web sites.

  • The VINE will announce that it will license its alternative to Web ad banners, which features paid links to services within "communities of interests," like VINE's Venture Information Network for Entrepreneurs, a financing community for entrepreneurs and funding sources.