IAB sets out ‘baseline standard’ for display ad impressions

Trade association the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) has today (15 April) set out standards for desktop display advertising which will allow marketers to buy ads based on “viewability” for the first time, bringing display more in line with other media such as TV and outdoor. However, some industry experts have raised concerns that standards are not favourable enough to marketers and could drive up prices.

Computer Mouse
IAB sets out desktop display Viewable Impressions guidelines.

The new self-regulatory Viewable Impressions guidelines state that 50 per cent of the pixels in a display banner must be visible for a minimum of one second to qualify as an impression. The percentage of the area visible goes down to 30 per cent for larger “rising stars” or ”canvas” ad formats.

Standards for video, mobile and tablet ads have yet to be determined, but the IAB says it expects to make more announcements this year.

The desktop display standards should benefit marketers by offering improved quality, accountability and effectiveness to online advertising inventory, according to the IAB.

Steve Chester, IAB’s director of data and industry programmes, told Marketing Week the guidelines aim to solve some of the discrepancies between advertising vendors when it comes to the impressions they apparently serve – which he adds can vary from a few percentage points of an ad viewed to more than 50 per cent between providers.

“Some people are already trading on this already, but we are hoping to create a baseline standard, a currency for people who want to trade on it because at the moment people are working on completely different [impression models],” Chester said.

The first advertising vendors to sign up to the guidelines are currently undertaking accreditation from the Audit Bureau of Circulations, with the first group of approvals set for this summer. Currently eleven advertising companies -including Google, Alenty and comScore – have been approved by the Media Ratings Council to deploy the viewable impressions standards in the US, a move Chester says has already resulted in a 5 to 10 per cent reduction level in the amount of discrepancies.

However, one senior digital marketer told Marketing Week they did not believe the guidelines were “very ambitious” for an advertisers’ perspective and that the 50 per cent figure was likely dictated by publishers, rather than being in the interest of brands.

The adoption of the new standards by publishers could also drive up pricing. ISBA’s marketing services manager David Ellison warns marketers and agencies will need to be “vigilant” to ensure prices do not go up radically once the practice is adopted.

However, he says the move could mean marketers look more favourably upon digital media when planning campaigns.

“Because this metric is centred on the opportunity to see an ad, ideally digital marketers will be able to plan their media using one universal metric across digital, TV, radio and outdoor – we’re not there yet, but this puts digital in a better light,” Ellison added.

For more information on the UK Viewable Impressions guidelines, click here