IAB filmstrip ad formatYou’re about to see big changes in the online ads that appearing alongside your favorite websites, because the standards organization overseeing web ads has just approved new guidelines for the first time in three years.

Advertisers are using a variety of tricks to make ads more engaging: Increased interactivity through rich media, “gamification” of ads and extended video spots are all in their bag of tricks. It appears to be working, as people are spending more time viewing ads, and sometimes ads are more relevant to their personal tastes.

To make all those advances in interactivity into a real business, though, the ad industry has to impose some standards, so publishers and advertisers can work together without having to reinvent the wheel every time. That’s where the Interactive Advertising Bureau comes in. It’s the global nonprofit group responsible for creating the industry-wide standards for the interactive advertising and marketing world.

Yesterday, at the 4th annual IAB Ad Ops conference in New York City, the tone was that of excitement as the IAB council released the first update to its guidelines since 2008.

The IAB is made up of more than 500 media and technology companies responsible for selling 86 percent of the online ads in the U.S. Needless to say, its guidelines carry some clout.

Opening the conference with this announcement, President and CEO Randall Rothenberg announced the update to the industry-standard Rich Media Creative Guidelines, in reflection of the rapid adoption of interactive formats by brand advertisers.  The updates were a result of nine months of work by a cross-industry group, both from the advertising and publishing side.

Understanding that consumers value richer advertising experiences, IAB’s changes included the addition of  six recently-launched “Rising Stars” display ad formats, including the “Billboard,” “Filmstrip” (shown to the right), “Pushdown” and “Slider.” The guidelines also added maximum CPU usage as a key metric, increased maximum frame rates for previously existing rich media formats, and increased the allowable length of time that in-ad videos can play.

These changes should make it easier for advertisers, publishers, and any type of content creator in the digital space to understand how to serve the best type of ads and monetize their content while still keeping their audience engaged.

Furthermore, this acknowledges the change in popularity of various ad sizes, but most importantly, the change in where users are consuming their content (i.e. on mobile and tablet devices rather than on desktop).  With the shift to the mobile web, advertisers are being forced to create more interactive and engaging units.

Rothenberg also announced the industry adoption of the IAB Impression Exchange Solution (IES), which ultimately combats billing obstacles.  AdTech, MediaMind, PointRoll and Vindico all committed to joining Google in implementing the technology by Q2 2012.  This implementation will allow publishers and advertisers to detect and resolve differences in their systems used to count impressions and clicks in their digital campaigns, saving time and money across the board.

Other speakers included the CEO of Adobe’s latest portfolio addition, Auditude, a video monetization and ad serving platform and separately, John Frelinghuysen of Bain and Company.  Frelinghuysen highlighted an eco-system wide initiative to propose standards for metrics and advertising currency that will enhance evaluation of digital media and facilitate cross-platform comparison for brand marketing.

The conference was a good event for understanding the large amounts of consolidation and technological shifts in the digital advertising space, but IAB might do well by inviting more publishers (as opposed to mostly advertising technologists) to speak at the next event.

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