Online Advertising: Bigger Is Better

Internet advertising bureau gives thumbs up for larger banner ad sizes in new industry guidelines

With web banner ads increasingly dismissed as ineffective, the Internet Advertising Bureau has decided to take action.

Its solution: Make the ads bigger.

The IAB, a consortium of online companies that sell or are heavily dependent on advertising, last week approved seven new banner advertising sizes, all of which are bigger than the seven existing IAB banner ad formats, which were first established in 1996 as standard guidelines for advertisers and publishers.

The online advertising industry lauded the new sizes.

"From the advertisers point of view, this is definitely a good thing," said Roger Sant, chief strategy officer at Carat Interactive Inc., an online advertising agency in Boston, "so long as it doesnt dwarf the content on the page."

The more prominent banner sizes could aid advertisers in building brand awareness, something Carat Interactive advises its clients to consider when developing online advertising campaigns, Sant said. The brand-building the new banner ad sizes would allow could prove especially popular for large business-to-business organizations.

"The B2B companies dont measure entirely on click-throughs," Sant said. "They dont expect people to click through and buy a large-ticket item online. For them, its more about gaining mind share. And the larger ads will be harder to ignore."

Gaining B2B companies support for online advertising is seen as crucial to the medium in the wake of the falloff of online advertising revenues from failing dot-coms.

The new ad formats are squarer than the existing rectangular formats and more similar to ad sizes used in print advertising, which may make online advertising more enticing for companies that have traditionally relied on offline media. The largest of the new ad sizes measures 240 by 400 pixels. The largest of the old ad standards was 120 by 240 pixels.

Beth Eason, vice president and general manager of IAB member DoubleClick Inc., in New York, agreed that the new banner ad sizes could broaden opportunities for brand advertising online.

Eason compared the impact of the new banner ad sizes with when television networks began to offer 30-second ad spots instead of just 60-second spots. Today, the 30-second spot is the most popular TV ad format.

But Eason said theres still a place for the much-derided rectangular banner ad.

"You can wrap a great deal of text around the traditional banner ad," Eason said. "Thats still a valuable piece of real estate."

The context in which the ads are placed and the targeting opportunities the Internet offers are far more important than the size and shape of the ad, Eason said. "Its not about giving advertisers a new square box; its about giving them a chance to speak to potential customers on a one-to-one basis," she said.

Web surfers probably wont like the new larger ad formats, which have already been in use at sites like CNet Networks Inc. and Inc., especially if they slow down page load times. But its a price theyll have to pay if they want freely accessible content sites.

"Somebody needs to pay for the Internet," Eason said. "Advertising needs to be the economic engine that drives it."

"The world has changed since 1996," said Richy Glassberg, chairman and CEO of interactive advertising and marketing agency Phase2Media Inc., in New York.

"We wanted to give people different sizes that could allow for more interactive creativity in the ads," said Glassberg, who chaired the IABs Ad Unit Task Force. "Advertisers and publishers wanted a bigger palette, so thats what we gave them."