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Online ads need standards

US body says time to raise the bar

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Online advertising methods and terminology should be standardised to help advertisers and publishers navigate the complex internet advertising process, US trade body the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) has said.

The IAB has published a set of guidelines that it wants advertising networks and exchanges to follow to help businesses to conduct their advertising online.

"Over 1 million web sites carry advertising, and there are reports of [more than 300] ad networks and ad exchanges," said a new set of guidelines published by the IAB. "Web page content can change constantly and dynamically. The IAB Quality Assurance Guidelines are intended to demystify ad networks and ad exchanges.

Online advertising networks and exchanges are the organisations, such as DoubleClick, which match advertisers seeking to place ads as part of a campaign with the sites and publishers who want to sell their ad space.

The process can be more complicated than traditional advertising because payment is often dependent on results and results can be highly technical. The process is further complicated by the increasingly-common behavioural advertising technologies used to place ads in the first place.

The IAB's guidelines, produced by its Networks and Exchanges Committee, aim to clear up confusion about complex terms and processes as well as to help advertisers to ensure that their adverts do not appear on pages carrying copyright-infringing content, the IAB said.

"IAB Networks & Exchanges Quality Assurance Guidelines address two key objectives for the buying community: provide detailed information for acquiring inventory; contextual taxonomy and targeting; inventory vetting [and] data disclosure [and] eliminate confusion through a common vocabulary for targeting [and] data," said the guidelines.

The IAB said that companies which submitted to its guidelines will be better able to provide a standard, understandable service to companies.

"Networks & Exchanges that voluntarily agree to be certified against these guidelines are providing marketers and agencies with a standardized approach that is designed to make buying easier and to give increased control over where ads are placed," the guidelines said. "Marketers and agencies will have greater brand safety assurances that ads will not appear next to content that they decide is inappropriate."

"For the first time, the US ad networks and ad exchanges market will be giving advertisers consistent and standardized information, serving to build greater marketplace trust," the guidelines said.

“The definitions, standards and practices covered by ‘Networks & Exchanges Quality Assurance Guidelines’ afford advertisers the highest level of brand safety when they buy on networks and exchanges," said Sherrill Mane of the IAB.

The guidelines define some of the terms that ad networks might use, such as those indicating the levels and kinds of information provided to advertisers about where their ads run. It defines the kinds of relationships possible between networks and publishers and indicates what terms could define the categorisation of content on pages where ads will be displayed.

See: The guidelines (43-page/369kb pdf)

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