A short history of IAB standards

A short history of IAB standards

By: Cortland J. Fondon

IAB is an acronym that stands for the Interactive Advertising Bureau. The IAB, as its name suggests, is a business organization in the advertising industry that conducts research into digital marketing best practices, provides legal support to businesses and individuals in the digital marketing industry and develops a series of industry standards that are then used going forward. The Interactive Advertising Bureau was first founded in 1996 in New York City, New York and is a not for profit trade organization. Lead by Randall Rothenberg, it is a global organization that has over 600 different members all over the world.

What Are IAB Standards?

One of the major attributes of online marketing that IAB standards govern isn’t necessarily the content of ads that are being displayed online but how they’re being displayed. The Internet Advertising Bureau released a series of eight ad standards in 1996 governing banner advertising, among other attributes. Those these guidelines were completely voluntary at the time, they still described recommendations that were based on a thorough examination of the banner advertising techniques of the time.

More specifically, these standards aimed to strike a delicate balance between the relationship of banner ads that were displayed automatically when a user loaded a website and the content that they were actually trying to view. The banner ads needed to be large enough and prominent enough to be effective, but not too large or too prominently placed to destroy the user experience.

Display Format Changes

As personal computers and the Internet experience began to change, so did the IAB standards. Between 2002 and 2004, eleven standards were added to the previous six that were created by the Internet Advertising Bureau. Among these included recommendations for pop up and pop under advertising, which described best practices for marketers who wished to employ these tactics. Pop up advertisements load automatically in a separate window on top of the page that the viewer is trying to load. Pop under advertisements essentially accomplish the same thing, though they load underneath or “behind” the page that the viewer was trying to load.

Digital Video

In the nascent days of the Internet, there wasn’t any significant amount of emphasis placed on the potential of digital video. Internet connections were still far too slow to support streaming video and most computers themselves weren’t natively capable of allocating the appropriate level of resources for a smooth user experience.

As computers continued to advance, however, digital video in general became far more prominent thanks to streaming services like YouTube. The Internet Advertising Bureau started releasing standards for digital video advertising initially in 2008 and continuing on into 2009. The standards recommended sizes, locations and user control levels for certain important elements like the ad control bar, full screen capabilities, extenders, time sync information and more.

Mobile Development

In the last few years, the ways in which people commonly access the Internet have changed dramatically and forever. Gone are the days where people would wait until they got home from work or school to sit down in front of a personal desktop computer and browse their favorite websites. Thanks to mobile devices like Apple’s revolutionary iPhone smartphone, everyone is essentially online at all times.

This represented a significant challenge for mobile advertisers, as past best practices would not prove to be effective in the mobile landscape. As a result, the Internet Advertising Bureau released a series of new standards in 2011 regarding the development of ads designed for the mobile environment. These included size, design and placement guidelines for banners, interstitials and other types of ads designed for smartphones, small feature phones, medium traditional phones and other types of devices that users are likely to own.

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