What Happens Next With The IAB's New Ad Portfolio?

Online traffic has consistently migrated away from desktop toward mobile phones and tablets, with headsets and wearables beginning to enter the picture as well. With this change in content consumption, advertisers are desperate for standards and guidance to make sure their ads show up reliably across all of these screens. Unfortunately, the majority of guidelines and specs are more than two years old, with amendments made on the fly in an attempt to maintain pace with the digital evolution.

Needless to say, advertisers and publishers were happy when the Interactive Advertising Bureau released its new Standard Ad Portfolio. This is a major step forward, one that can hopefully eliminate many of the issues stemming from the hodgepodge of standards many advertisers were previously relying on.

However, It also raises some questions on how willing various media and creative entities will be in adopting these new standards.



The new ad portfolio incorporates flexibility, as well as the IAB’s LEAN (light, encrypted, ad choice supported, non-invasive) guidelines to correct digital advertising tactics put into practice when the use of Flash and HTML5 decreased.

Previously, there was obvious concern over working with a set of standards updated on an ad-hoc basis. This method of protocol updates naturally generates confusion in the market, and makes any kind of broad acceptance difficult. The confusion is clearly seen in how most delivery issues required an evaluation of the widespread effect across the ecosystem. The trouble is that by the time this analysis was completed, time0sensitive ad campaigns had already reached their conclusion. Thus, while they may have alerted the media community to an issue, the campaign itself suffered as a result.

Another growing concern was user intrusiveness and the deployment of ad blockers. We’ve all witnessed the effects of ad formats that deliver highly disruptive user experiences – they turn consumers away. Annoying formats are a prime example of what an unchecked ecosystem allows. The LEAN initiative aims to solve this by providing clarity and preserving better performance, user friendliness and file size. Essentially, the industry is moving as a whole to enhance experiences.

Additionally, the Flex initiative provides guidance on switching from a fixed, dimension-based size to an aspect ratio. This caters to the responsiveness required by consumers’ habit of using multiple devices. While most of the industry has been preparing for the idea of leaner, friendlier and less-intrusive advertising, the Flex piece raises questions about modifications that need to take place behind the scenes – especially if publishers and end-to-end solutions are ready to make this type of infrastructural change to their sites and buying solutions.

As it stands now, websites are responsible for their own responsive abilities. While it’s in the best interest of a site, and its users, to unify a cross-channel experience, some entities found it too difficult to implement. Weighing the pros and cons of changing advertising methodologies is different for every entity, depending on infrastructure. But it’s important to understand what consequences companies could face if they decide not to switch. This raises the question if sites are willing to comply to the new ad portfolio standards, or if they’ll simply hold on to their current setup.

As digital advertising continues to evolve, it’s exciting to see how the acceptance of new standards takes shape. The IAB has history on its side, but it remains to be seen if and how this portfolio can mold the present and ever-changing ecosystem. Will this be a superior solution for the years to come, or just another temporary solution that demands a rewrite a few years down the line?

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