IAB Attempts To Bring Some Order To Choice Of Large Display Formats

The Interactive Advertising Bureau’s “rising stars” award isn’t meant as solely as a pat on the back to high profile members at its annual conference. The large intent is to reduce some of the confusion for advertisers and publishers that have cropped up with the proliferation of larger display formats over the past two years. Furthermore, the IAB has retired 11 of the 18 standard ad units with the ultimate goal of making display more of a branding medium that can close the gap in spending between online and offline.

Display is expected to continue the momentum it gained last year with growth in the “low double-digits” this year, according to a recent report from Macquarie analyst Ben Schachter, who’s been tracking homepage takeover ads from AOL (NYSE: AOL), Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO), YouTube (NSDQ: GOOG), and MSN. An additional assessment of display’s progress was offered by Neal Mohan, Google’s VP for product management, who told another industry conference that the global display market could hit $100 billion.

That all sounds promising, but display is not going to reach new heights without a little guidance.

The “rising stars” of large display in the IAB’s judgment included five providers: AOL’s Project Devil and its recently acquired display tools developer Pictela, Genex Slider (produced by Unicast & Mediamind), Google/YouTube Masthead, Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) Int. Filmstrip and lastly, the Unicast Sidekick. (See more details about each in the release).

When the discussion turns to why, when online, which is so targetable, relatively cheaper production cost and contains so many valuable eyeballs, lags so far behind TV ad spending, one of the main reasons given is lack of a standard for audience measurement. Secondly, most of the ads online are still cheaper direct response and the kind of creativity that has supported TV ads that are designed to raise brand awareness and affinity have been hard to come by.

Both the IAB and Online Publishers Association have been focused on changing the view of the web as a direct response medium with the larger display ads that allow for more creativity beyond messages that are designed to drive clickthroughs and direct sales.

In a conversation with AOL and Pictela executives, they believe that their particular formats show be able to help solve the issue of metrics to some extent. The same is largely true for the others in the IAB’s list.

The primary metric has emerged for display brand ads is “engagement,” which has been sharpened from a pretty nebulous, general quality to something a bit more basic that advertisers can appreciate. “The way we look at engagement for display is very similar to the type of metrics to when someone visits a website in general: how long did they spend, did they share something,” said Pictela CEO Greg Rogers. “We’re going to begin to create benchmarks. We need to replace the clickthrough rate. Or we at least need to augment it, in order to show the value of an ad.”