IAB seeks unified metrics to bolster brand spend on tablets

Microsoft, Orange and Yahoo are taking part in an IAB Europe programme to standardise digital ad formats, particularly in the fast-emerging tablet device sector, in an attempt to lure even more investment from traditional media channels. 


The pan-European trade body’s recently-formed Brand Advertising Committee (BAC) is sounding feedback from media agencies, publishers and third-party ad serving companies to standardise ad formats, key performance indicators (KPIs) and audience segmentation across devices.

GroupM media agencies MEC and Mindshare among others are taking part in the initiative, along with research firms Comscore and Nielsen. Also backing the initiative are IAB bodies from across the continent’s three key markets, namely the UK, France and Germany, among others.

Currently IAB Europe’s BAC is sounding the best ad format dimensions, both static banner and animated ones, to serve to users with across devices, according to Karim Attia, BAC chairman and CEO of behavioural targeting company Nugg.ad.

“We’re gathering information locally, before aggregating at European level, and then we’ll feed that back to the countries before finally coming up with proposals over the ad formats,” he says.

Marketing Week understands the body intends to have these proposals ready for submission to its membership from September this year.

A key area of focus is on tablet devices as the industry attempts to catch up with the popularity of the medium, given that consumer uptake of devices such as Apple’s iPad and Google’s Nexus outstripped early forecasts. Total number of tablet users across the continent’s key advertising markets is set to hit 135 million by 2017 according to forecasts by eMarketer (see chart).

Attia adds that tablet devices pose a particular challenge and an opportunity to brands given that users often switch how they use them between horizontal and vertical, meaning advertisers will have a choice between landscape and portrait ad formats.

He also predicts the proposals for standardised tablet ad formats are likely to include bigger ad units, compared to smartphone or desktops ones, with more dynamic and interactive features.

Currently many publishers serve tablet users with a mixture of ad formats originally designed for desktop and smartphone devices, which is one of the chief reasons why ad spend on the medium –  for both brand advertising and direct marketing campaigns –  continues to lag consumer uptake.

Advertiser concerns
David Ellison, ISBA’s marketing services manager, says: “The consensus among ISBA members is that in principle I think standard ad sizes across tablets is a good idea and although it’s not currently front of mind for many advertisers – because tablet ads are still a relatively small part of most media plans – we imagine it will become more prevalent an issue.”

Other brand advertiser sources approached by Marketing Week raised concerns over production costs involved with developing platforms targeted for specific device types, adding that standardisation of ad formats across different device types would “help avoid budget surprises mid-production”.

Ellison also adds: “It is important to note that the tracking of tablet ads and the cross-tracking/de-duping of activity across devices is a much bigger issue for some brands in tablet advertising. Measurement of tablet  advertising is the priority and we will be watching this space closely.”

To pre-empt such concerns over tracking and online brand safety across devices IAB Europe’s BAC will further attempt to address the issues of campaign KPIs, such as brand affinity or likelihood to purchase, etc, and then audience segmentation, after the ad formats are agreed.

“The understanding of areas such as click through rates (CTR) are fairly universal but [with the new devices people are consuming media on] we’re trying to track and measure how [ads on them] affect behaviour change,” adds Attia.

Once this area is addressed the body will attempt to establish an agreed method of measuring audience segments across such devices. This activity is likely to run into 2014, according to sources.

Last week Yahoo mounted a renewed charm offensive on the advertising community with a research study Media Senses demonstrating the growing emergence of consumer usage of tablet devices, particularly in how they are being used in conjunction of television viewing as it vies for a greater share of branded advertising budgets traditionally spent on TV. 

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