At its recent annual leadership meeting, the Interactive Advertising Bureau introduced its first new standard ad unit portfolio in nearly a decade. This is significant because when the IAB rolls out a standard (whether it’s ad units, terms and conditions, or otherwise) it is typically adopted by most, if not all, of the digital industry.
Most intriguing about the new standards are the six new, larger units originally called “Rising Stars.” Notably, the name for these units has already been changed on the IAB website to “Rich Media Branding Units.” Officially rolling out a set of units focused on, and named for brands is a very positive development that should be commended.
It is a move that has been a long time coming. Despite all of the advances in data, targeting optimization and buying methodologies in the past decade, brands’ display spending has not reached a level that satisfies the industry (notwithstanding Facebook ads, which are classified as display, but are clearly not. But I digress.) Some think it’s because digital is simply harder to buy than TV, and that fixing the “plumbing,” or making display easier to buy, is the answer. While there is a ring of truth to that, I disagree overall. Making banners easier to buy will not make advertisers invest significantly more in display.
But, making display formats better will. Because, quite frankly, banners suck.
They have hit a plateau in performance (DoubleClick Display Benchmarks). There are too many of them (comScore Reports 4.8 Trillions Ads Delivered in 2011). A third of them are never even viewed (vCE™ Charter Study Finds 3 of Every 10 Display Ads are not Seen). Which is why users by and large, tune them out (“Ignoring Internet Banner Ads”). Ironically, these problems are partially due to actions taken by publishers, although no one can blame them. Ad exchanges and SSPs created the opportunity for more ads per page, which accounted for more revenue for each one placed (albeit at a very low CPM).
All this has led us to the situation we, as an industry, are faced with now: standard formats being ignored by users and undervalued by brands.
The introduction of the Rich Media Branding Units is publishers’ chance to change display for the better. And that is my call to action for them. Let’s get back to the essence of advertising and create site experiences that inspire brand marketers to open their eyes (and wallets). Let’s put resources toward site redesign templates that feature these new, larger units. Let’s put them in your sales teams’ bag and incentivize them to sell. Let’s work with technology providers that can help bring them to life. This is the publisher’s opportunity above all.