New Proposed IAB Standards a Good Thing, But Do B2B Buyers and Sellers Care?

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Last month the Interactive Advertising Bureau unveiled new proposed formats and standards for flexible digital ad units, which are intended to improve user experience (in turn stemming the rate of ad blocking) and adhering to IAB's own "LEAN" guidelines, which call for lightweight, non-intrusive ads that the consumer can control (the new guidelines call specifically for the elimination of pop-up ads and countdown ads).   

The new IAB standards are open for public comment until Nov. 28. All suggestions are based on HTML 5 technology and include flexible size guidelines for banners, tiles, full page, half page and mobile units. General ad requirements include,

• Interest-Based Advertising (IBA): Include IBA self-regulation controls
for ads using behavioral targeting (5 KB max file size).
• Audio: Must be user-initiated. To allow for audio initiation in ads without
player controls, a control may be included for user to initiate audio.
• Defining ad space: Ad unit content must be clearly distinguishable
from normal webpage content (ad unit must have clearly defined
borders and not be confused with normal page content).
• Max CPU: Ad should not exceed 30% CPU usage during host-initiated
• Submission lead time: Minimum recommended lead time for ad file
submission is six days before campaign start. Please check with your
publisher for their guidance. May require more time for new ad
• Max number of host-initiated file requests: Ad should not exceed ten
file requests during initial file load. Additional files can be loaded as
necessary during host initiated subload and user initiated loads. 

The proposed IAB standards are open for public comment until Nov. 28. In that spirit, we asked some digital media executives within the Connectiv community for their thoughts on the new proposals. The collective response seems to be that the new guidelines are welcome and not difficult for publishers to accommodate on the technical side. However, getting both B2B ad sellers and B2B ad buyers to actually embrace these new types of ad formats is a far bigger challenge.  

Charlie Craine, Chief Technology Officer and Corporate Director Data Products, Meister Media:

If you're sitting on a website you haven't updated or can't update quickly, you'll have issues with the new standards. However, most of us build our sites around ads and it shouldn't be a big deal. We're going through the second iteration of a mobile, responsive site. We've had that for three and a half years now, and we're building our own ads. The new IAB standards are supportive of doing bigger, more impactful ads and I think it's the right move. We already build our headers to have flexible ad units--300x260 works on a phone too, it's not that impactful for us. Anything you can come up with, we've got.  

I like the new IAB standards because they allow you to do "quality over quantity" ad units. Can you prepare your website to handle those ads? Some industries may be working on them but in the ag industry, advertisers typically don't have it. We still get Flash ads. We could technically sell one of those massive leaderboards on our sites, but people don't buy them because they don't have the materials.We're going to prepare for the new ad units and put them in our media kits but will anyone take them out? We can't get people to buy interstitials, which are the most high impact ad units on our websites. We've proven that they're better, the numbers are phenomenal. Our gallery ads do 2 percent clickthoughs and a rectangle ad does 0.2 percent, and people still don't buy galleries. I feel like we're moving people from print to Web still. I'd love to do those units but it doesn't pay to be too far ahead of advertisers. Product development goes into the product, not the advertising. 

Our sales rep have to be comfortable with this stuff too. There are so many things we can sell, including lead gen pages, download landing pages, flexible units, wallpapers, native, and so on. In 2016 we prepared for everything we can do. Sometimes we run out of inventory, sometimes it's a meeting of our clients' and sales reps' knowledge. It's an ongoing struggle.  

Linda Buchanan, Digital Media Production Manager, Northstar Travel: 

My first impression of the new proposed standards is that finally we have some HTML 5 specs to follow. We've been trying to pin IAB down for some time on specs. This looks it will help with serving advertising across all platforms, but I don't know if it really applies to us. We're set up for separate buys (mobile is separate from Website, etc.). 

It looks like this is oriented around user-initiated actions. That's fine but it can be hard for both the sales team and the advertisers to adapt. On the advertiser side, it's hard enough to get people to do pushdown tabs correctly. 

David Warren, Vice President, Digital Media, PennWell: 

As a publisher we will have to change a little bit to accommodate the standards but we don't use many of these types of ads now, just welcome ads or overlays. We will have to make adjustments in terms of ad specs, but that's not a big deal, our leaderboards need to be updated anyway. 

My experience is that B2C advertisers and agencies jump on these standards, but B2B lags. For example, something like viewability comes up with the handful of giant B2C companies that hit our markets, but not really anyone else. We will be leading them, not vice versa. 

Matt Matt Kinsman is vice president of content + programming at Connectiv, the only association focused on the integrated b-to-b model—including publications, events, digital media, marketing services and business information. Prior to joining Connectiv's predecessor American Business Media in 2011, Kinsman was executive editor of Folio:, the leading information provider for the magazine industry.