Group to issue standards for bigger Web ads

An online advertising trade group on Monday plans to unveil standards for bigger Web advertisements as it seeks to breathe new life into the battered industry.

Stefanie Olsen Staff writer, CNET News
Stefanie Olsen covers technology and science.
Stefanie Olsen
3 min read
An online advertising trade group on Monday plans to unveil standards for bigger Web advertisements as it seeks to breathe new life into the battered industry.

The Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) said it is issuing voluntary standards for seven new ad units, mostly offering advertisers more real estate to promote their wares on Web sites.

"There's a widespread understanding in the industry that we need bigger sizes to help the advertisers, clients and marketers get a better message across and use the capability of interactivity in the medium," said Richy Glassberg, vice chairman of the IAB and chief executive of Phase2Media.

The IAB last issued standards in Fall 1996, when it gave formality to ad banners--relatively unobtrusive sales pitches linked to company Web sites, that allow consumers to "click through" for additional information about products or services.

Though banners are now ubiquitous on the Web, they are widely seen as a failure, garnering response rates of about one in 200, down from one in 50 when they were first launched.

The new standards come as Web companies face mounting difficulties over weak online ad sales, pummeling stock prices, and escalating dot-com failures. In response, Web media companies are experimenting with new ad formats to offer customers and shore up flagging ad sales. The creation of the new standards comes after CNET Networks, publisher of News.com, launched a new, larger advertising format that incorporates Flash animation.

"Agencies need more space to get some emotion in there," Glassberg said, although he hastened to clarify that the new standard was not meant to imply banners are not working.

"The last thing we're saying is the banner is dead. We're saying that the banner is alive and well, and research is telling us banners work, but we need some bigger banners and some interactivity within them," he said.

The new larger dimensions are meant to give room for the advertiser to build an "emotional" element into an Internet ad, much like a TV spot, Glassberg said. The seven new units include two lengthwise ads, which run down the side of a Web page, known as skyscrapers; several large square ads; and a specification for pop-up ads--an increasingly popular promotional tool that spontaneously appears in browser windows.

Specifically, the new units--measured in pixels--include a skyscraper (120 by 600), a wide skyscraper (160 by 600), a large rectangle (336 by 280) and a pop-up ad (250 by 250).

Such standards are designed to give agencies and marketers a framework to design creative layouts in limited numbers, which helps contain the costs of having to create many different ad sizes. Before the IAB set its eight banner sizes, the group had to pare the options from more than 600 differently sized units, Glassberg said.

The issuance of new standards comes as the IAB is making strides to become a professionally run organization, rather than the volunteer group it has been since its founding five years ago. In late January the IAB hired its first-ever chief executive, Robin Webster, an industry association veteran. The group has plans to announce further standards for the online advertising industry.

In Monday's announcement, the group's task force on ad banners also is committing to meet biannually to review these formats and consider newly proposed units. In the latest standards, the IAB retired a banner size, at 392 by 72 pixels, that was barely used in the industry.

IAB members include America Online, Walt Disney Internet Group, DoubleClick, Excite@Home, Microsoft Network, New York Times Digital, Yahoo and CNET.