Today’s column is written by Julia Amorim, CEO at MediaNet.
When you’re negotiating your mortgage, you want some flexibility from the bank. When you’re practicing yoga, you need flexibility in your limbs.
And when you’re trying to be successful with digital advertising, flexibility is essential – not just in the kind of ads you create or run, but in how you adapt to new standards, such as the IAB’s latest Ad Portfolio.
This past summer, the IAB’s Tech Lab released the final version of LEAN ad formats, an acronym for ads that are lightweight, encrypted, AdChoices-supported and noninvasive. The ad formats were also developed with consideration for emerging environments, such as augmented reality, virtual reality and 360-degree video.
Many noted the flexibility of the aspect ratios, while others praised the requirements for putting consumers first, discouraging “irresponsible advertisers” and demonstrating a winning approach to user experience design.
There’s one aspect of the story, however, that probably won’t get nearly as much attention as the launch: how the new Ad Portfolio is used in practice.
Looking Back At ‘Rising Stars’
Five years ago, there was almost the same amount of attention and interest given to the IAB’s “Rising Stars,” six formats for interactive banners aimed at driving more ad spending from brands. A year later, however, a study showed only 31% of marketers had heard of Rising Stars.
“Advertisers are waiting for the units to achieve scale before they invest, whereas publishers are waiting for the ads to attract demand before they tweak their site designs to accommodate them,” AdWeek reported.
This chicken-and-egg dilemma is common with any change to industry standards, and it will almost certainly be true of the latest IAB Ad Portfolio. In the short term, for instance, limited supply and uncertain demand could mean more budget is allocated toward publishers’ direct campaigns until the dust settles.
This isn’t a knock against the work the IAB has done, which was based on a thoughtful consultation process. The industry simply needs to be just as thoughtful in how it identifies some of the potential barriers to adoption and questions that need to be answered.
Let’s get that process started as early as possible. These are just a few of the discussion points that come to mind:
1. How do we take the mystery out of ad rendering?
When an ad gets scaled down or up by the publisher, it poses some obvious implications for the experience the creative was designed to deliver. Much like native ads, which can be so innovative they risk feeling inconsistent in terms of execution, the ads from the IAB need to offer flexibility without creating too much uncertainty from the marketer’s perspective.
2. How should expectations around creative production be managed?
The flexibility of the IAB Ad Portfolio opens up a world of possibilities in terms of sizing, which also means many potential new requirements for testing and optimizing.
Leading marketers, for example, demand not only outstanding creativity but an extraordinary attention to detail. This has never been more important than in today’s multiscreen world of smartphones, wearables and traditional laptops and PCs. Yes, there are templates and machine-generated ways to produce ads, but if we are really putting user experience at the forefront, more customization – and possibly complexity – is inevitable.
Marketers and agencies will want to ensure they put aside the appropriate time to preview, iterate and optimize to ensure creative meets brand guidelines in addition to the IAB’s standards.
3. What will it mean when we have “one ratio to rule them all”?
The work the IAB has done will undoubtedly move the ad industry forward with better formats, design and ad experiences. The launch of these flex ads, though, marks a significant change. We need to keep the conversation going as we all begin to stretch ourselves a little further.
Take pricing, for example. There needs to be a value put against the ability for a particular ad to drive engagement and interaction, both of which are influenced by the viewability of the work. The process of allocating the right budget dollars will be more nuanced as flex ads come to the fore.
Discoverability is another issue to consider. If brands and their partners embrace this portfolio to create new inventory, how will we ensure it gets seen widely, and by the right consumers?
There are lessons to be learned from Rising Stars: “No more unwanted sound. Less autoplay. And say goodbye to expanding ads.”
Instead, the new Ad Portfolio makes the consumer experience the No. 1 priority. This is a priority marketers and their agencies share.
So, let’s aim for maximum transparency in technical details and marketing best practices. Let’s not manage change in silos but as a community. Let’s keep an open dialogue between the IAB, its members and other industry stakeholders to overcome any obstacles earlier and drive higher adoption and, most importantly, better results.