New Media Age | Fri, 3 Feb 2012 | By Lucy Tesseras
The IAB’s move to re-evaluate the file-size standard for display ads has been welcomed by some agencies because it will increase efficiency and lower costs for clients, while others think it is an old debate that no longer has relevance.
The current 40K standard has not been reviewed by the IAB for a number of years, in which time bandwidth has become faster and technology has improved. As such, some media owners now accept more than 40K, meaning creative agencies could have to build multiple variations of the same MPU in order to deliver the best possible ad for their client.
Dave Harrison, digital agency Spicerack’s founder and creative director, said, “I would like to see things become more standardised. Some media owners now have a file size limit of 50K for all display media and if an ad is submitted even slightly over that then the system will reject it, but others are more flexible and although they say they have a 40K limit, you could send them a 47K or 48K ad and it will be accepted.”
As the standard is not being monitored regularly and in line with development, Harrison believes it has forced creative agencies to take matters into their own hands. If an over-sized ad is accepted by a media owner, he said the agency will then continue to supply ads in that size because they know it has been accepted before.
But it means agencies are having to build multiple creatives in order to satisfy the demands of different media owners, which increases the cost for the client.
Jack Wallington, IAB head of industry programmes, said, “The fact that broadband speeds are dramatically faster than when the standard came into place means that we do need to look at it and address it.”
The standard hasn’t been reviewed sooner, he said, because there are ways of getting around the problem.
Digital agency Amaze uses polite loading, which allows the frame of the ad to be loaded at 40K, before the server “polite loads” the rest of the ad without affecting usability or speed.
Amaze CEO Natalie Gross said, “By using a third-party ad server, such as Mediamind, to ad serve any non-standard display creative, we can build ads to a larger file size, which can be served as a polite-load ad. This does have price implications in terms of increasing the cost of ad serving, but results in less creative hours and trafficking time, which often works out as the less expensive option for the client.”
The IAB has just updated the standard in the US, taking into account different ad types and formats.
“There are different file sizes for different formats, but if all the media owners and networks stick to those standards, it does simplify and standardise the market,” said Wallington. “We’re taking into account what the US has done to bring consistency to the UK and Europe.”
Gross said that if the IAB enforces standardisation across all display ad units, it will help the industry as a whole, but she reckons it will be difficult to get all publishers, networks and exchanges to agree to the ideal of a “one-size-fits-all” approach.
Nick Suckley, Agenda21 managing partner, doesn’t think file size standardisation is a particularly big issue any more, because although the spec is often ignored by creative agencies, as long as it is in the region, he said media owners aren’t generally that draconian about it.
However, he can see the benefit of having more stringent standards on a practical level. “If we’re getting different file formats from different publishers, there is more administration to deal with,” he said. “And from a creative point of view, the production costs are higher. If clients can save money from having standardised ads, that can only be a good thing, and it would be easier for us to deal with as well.”
Geoff Gower, AIS creative director, said although he agrees with the argument to some extent, the debate is out dated. “It’s not that relevant any more,” he said. “Yes, it would be nice if it was easier for us to work with one set of standards, but that by its very nature means we’ll continue to deliver the same type of ads. Sensible, forward-thinking brands should be looking at bigger, more flexible sponsorship and partnership models, rather than just buying more space and shouting at people.”
The IAB has so far surveyed media owners and networks and is in the process of getting the demand view. The results of the research will be revealed at the end of Q1.