Ad bureau unveils video guidelines

Outlines three online video ad formats

The Interactive Advertising Bureau on Monday introduced a set of guidelines aimed at bringing more standards to online video advertising -- and ultimately to make the still burgeoning medium easier for advertisers to buy.

The new guidelines cover three basic forms of online video ad formats: linear ads -- interruptive video spots which are typically of the pre-roll variety, non-linear ads -- which include the increasingly popular 'overlay' ad units, and companion ads -- bannerlike ads that appear alongside video as it plays on the Web.

The guidelines are the product of work conducted by the IAB's Digital Video Committee, which is composed of 145 leading media companies, including Google, Yahoo and Microsoft. In announcing the guidelines, IAB officials did not shy away from placing significance on the industry cooperation achieved in creating the guidelines and the impact they will have.

"This is a historic day," IAB president and CEO Randall Rothenberg said, likening the announcement to a similar set of landmark guidelines put in place for banner advertising in the late 1990s. IAB senior vp David Doty said he thinks leadership and marketing, predicted "seismic shifts" would occur in the online ad business as a result of their adoption.

The guidelines, which are viewed by IAB members as suggestions rather than rules, cover everything from how long pre-roll spots should be (no longer than 30 seconds) to specific file sizes, color depths and bit rates for various placements. The guidelines also look to enforce standards of consumer control for video ads -- as the IAB urges publishers and advertisers to make most video ads user-initiated with options to stop and start video play on-demand.

But it's the potential for standardization of video creative formats that has many in the industry excited about the guidelines, based on comments made during a panel discussion held during Monday's IAB Leadership Forum at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York. When different sites and ad networks require unique creative specifics for video, "that hits our production budgets several different times," said Deva Bronson, digital media manager at KFC. That sort of dynamic makes it tough to recommend running an online video campaign on a wide range of sites, she added.

Adam Shlachter, senior partner, group director, at MEC Interaction, concurred, adding that agencies often need to weigh the tradeoffs between the expected impact of adding more video sites to a buy with the associated trafficking and production labor. Sometimes, those factors make it harder to justify online video to clients. "It's really difficult," he said. "Especially because it's so nascent."