Ad Tech & Ad Ops

What are IAB Standard Ads? Why are They Important?

As fast as the digital advertising industry is growing, it needs to be governed by certain standards so that the multitude of parties can work together in harmony.

Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) functions as such a body in the ad tech industry and creates standards and guidelines for the smooth functioning of the industry. 

Also Read: A Primer on IAB and MRC Viewability Standards 

Since ad sizes are of great significance in the digital advertising industry, IAB is responsible for creating standards and guidelines for ad units/sizes. This ensures that the buying and selling process of the inventory becomes easy for both publishers and advertisers, given that they are adhering to IAB standards. 

In this blog post, we are going to talk about IAB standard ad units and the new IAB standard ad unit portfolio that was released in 2017. 

Also read: IAB New Ad Portfolio: Why do Ad Creatives Need to be LEAN

IAB Standard Ads

A standard ad can be defined as an ad unit that is seen on most websites. Currently, three sizes are considered standard ads- Leaderboard (728×90), medium rectangle (300×250), and skyscraper (160×600). 

These ad units are used extensively in the ad tech industry and are considered the most profitable ad sizes. Publishers can implement these ads easily, their demand is always high from the advertisers, and they help in increasing the earning potential of publishers. 

It should be noted that IAB’s ad portfolio also recognizes several other ad sizes, including billboard (970×250), smartphone banner (300×50, 320×50), and portrait (300×600). However, the above mentioned ad sizes are used the most in the digital advertising industry. 

Publishers should ideally experiment with different ad sizes to see which ones are giving them the highest returns. Moreover, using different ad sizes can also help them deal with banner blindness, which is a problem that arises while leveraging popular or common ad sizes. 

Also Read: Top Performing Banner Ad Sizes

IAB New Ad Portfolio

Guidelines that define the New Ad Portfolio were developed by the IAB Tech Lab. These standards focus on enhancing the advertising experience across multiple platforms, including mobile apps, websites, and social media.

The New Ad Portfolio also focuses on ‘new media experiences’ such as virtual reality ads and augmented reality ads. 

At the present time, user intent and user privacy are the prime reasons for the majority of changes that are occurring in the ad tech industry.

Emergence of privacy laws such as GDPR and CPRA and demise of third-party cookies are heavily focused on protecting users from any kind of fraud. Due to such developments, the interest of the user is central to the new IAB standard ad unit portfolio. 

Also Read: How Different Browsers are Handling Web Browser Cookies

  • Since the user’s key aim is to consume the content on websites, advertisements should not be disruptive in any way. 
  • User experience is of high priority and it can be enhanced by giving users control over the kind of advertising experience they want to have. For example, providing clear close buttons on the creatives can be a good way to put the user in charge. 
  • Better user experience also means that ads should render as fast as possible on a website, which is why IAB’s New Ad Portfolio also focuses on faster load performance. 

Note: “The IAB New Ad Portfolio replaces all the previous creative display guidelines for mobile and desktop – including the Universal Ad Package (UAP), rich media units, and other ad units’ related guidance.” 

Flexible Ads

A major feature of new ad units as described in the New Standard Ad Unit Portfolio is that they are based on aspect ratio as opposed to the previously followed norm of fixed pixel sizes.

Users these days are actively using multiple devices for browsing. Furthermore, screen sizes vary for similar devices as well. Due to this, advertisements need to adapt to different devices and screen sizes. This is why flexible ad units are important.

A flexible ad unit will make sure that ads are delivered properly across different screen sizes and can also be integrated with responsive website designs. Flexible adunits basically maintain their aspect ratio and adjust according to the screen size. 

In addition to making sure that original sanctity of creatives is maintained to provide good page experience across multiple devices to users, flexible ad units also enhance operational efficiency for publishers. 

Also Read: What are Core Web Vitals and how they can enhance page experience

LEAN Ads

Other than flexible ads, the new IAB standards also put emphasis on LEAN (light, encrypted, AdChoices supported, and non-invasive) ads. As we already mentioned before, the IAB New Standard Ad Unit Portfolio prioritizes user experience by ensuring that users have control over what they are consuming and for how long and respecting their choices. 

This is essentially done by serving users with LEAN ads. For example, lightweight ads will make sure that page latency is minimized and ads are rendered quickly. Similarly, non-disruptive ads will ensure that the user is able to consume the main website content without any hindrance. 

Publishers can go through the IAB New Standard Ad Unit Portfolio to get a better understanding of Flexible and LEAN ad specifications.  

Also read: Google Starts ‘Subscription Lab’, Launches New Fact-Checking Tools

About IAB and IAB Tech Lab

IAB was founded in 1996 and has now become a leading association in the interactive advertising field. Over 650 media and technology enterprises are members of this association. IAB majorly creates standards and guidelines for the advertising industry. Other than this, the association also focuses on conducting research in the field of interactive advertising and educating the people working in the advertising industry. 

It should be noted that IAB ‘recommends’ publishers, advertisers, and other parties in the advertising industry to follow the standards and practices that they create, however, it is not a mandatory requirement. But since the leading companies in the advertising industry are members of IAB, publishers will certainly benefit if they are working in conjunction with the IAB recommended practices and guidelines. 

IAB tech lab is an international association that is responsible for developing technical standards for the advertising industry. This is to ensure that the multiple parties that are part of the supply chain are able to work together in harmony. Additionally, if the majority of participants in the advertising industry adhere to standards developed by IAB tech lab, the industry can witness consistent growth. 

Also read: Decrypting Ad Tech with Amit Shetty, Sr. Director of Product, IAB Tech Lab

Final Thoughts

While publishers do not have to follow the IAB standard ad units specifications as a rule, it is definitely the ideal way forward in the digital advertising landscape. If web designers would have to create different ad sizes for different websites, the situation would become highly chaotic. 

Furthermore, publishers’ ad revenue can take a serious hit if they are not adhering to IAB standards. Therefore, in order to stay relevant in the industry and make good profits, publishers should stick to ad units that are used universally. 

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is the IAB Standard Sizes?

The common IAB Standard Sizes are 300×250 medium rectangle, 180×150 rectangle, 160×600 wide skyscraper, and 728×90 leaderboard.

What are the benefits of IAB Standards?

IAB ad units are used extensively in the ad tech industry and are considered the most profitable ad sizes. Publishers can implement these ads easily, their demand is always high from the advertisers, and they help in increasing the earning potential of publishers. 

Which is the highest performing banner ad size? 

Some of the best performing banner ad sizes are are follows:
300×250 – Medium rectangle
336×280 – Large rectangle
728×90 – Leaderboard
320×50 – Mobile leaderboard

Also read: IAB’s Project Rearc: A Possible Solution To Third-Party Cookie Apocalypse


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