Online advertising in Canada is getting its first set of nationally recognized ad sizes, putting the medium on a level footing with all other media across the country.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau of Canada, which

spearheaded the move, said the new standard sizes will help reduce costs and inefficiencies associated with buying, planning and creating online media.

IABC chair Brent Lowe-Bernie said the main goal of the various councils within the organization is to uncover issues and obstacles that they believe affect their sector of the business.

“”I would say it’s probably more than eight months ago that this issue of creating creative for online started to bubble its way to the top as a potential roadblock for the industry,”” he said. “”Because there was no standardization across different sites for what are pretty standard creative units — in this case leaderboards, big boxes and skyscrapers — you could go from one site to the next and where one leaderboard would be 728 by 90 (pixels), at the next site it would be 735 by 90.””

What was happening, Lowe-Bernie, continued, was that publishers and ad agencies had to deal with far more creative material than was ideal. The best analogy he could draw, he said, were half-minute commercial spots produced for TV. Agencies don’t execute one at 32 seconds, another at 27 seconds and a third at 30. So “”it’s kind of silly”” for a medium that’s trying to increase its share of ad dollars to have an administrative barrier such as a lack of standard sizes, he said.

Phase 1 of the Canadian Universal Ad Package requires leaderboards at 728 by 90 pixels or 20k GIF/JPG file size; big boxes at 300 by 250 pixels with files at 20k; skyscrapers at 120 by 600 pixels, until July 1 this year when it changes to 160 by 600, and files at 20k in both instances. File sizes for all Flash Media should be 30k.

Chris Williams, an account manager at Media Contacts in Toronto, said in the online industry anyone could – and still can – create any ad in any size or format, so things are still all over the place. When Media Contacts runs a large complicated program it could have upwards of 100 pieces of creative, Williams explained.

“”That makes for massive amounts of inefficiency in the sense that not only does it have to get created but lawyers have to go through it, it all has to get approved, it has to get trafficked, it has to get tracked, it has to get reported on,”” he said. “”So when we add new sizes to (the program) it just multiplies exponentially,””.

What the IABC hopes to do is have a number of different sizes publishers and advertisers can agree on, said Williams. That means everyone will know what they’re using and creative departments can go ahead and create to those standards.

The big change with the new standards will come in reduced production budgets, said Williams, which should make media planners and agencies happy because it will mean clients’ dollars go farther.

José Leal, general manager of Canoe.ca, said he has agencies coming to him with off-standard formats that his Web portal has to adapt before they can be used. But when an agency comes along with a fairly large buy, Canoe.ca has no choice but to say yes to it, he allowed.

“”By simply all deciding that we’re going to work together to build standards and look ahead, then a second benefit to us as publisher is that we can now be working on sites that are going to launch for July 1 to include the new standard.””

As for increased efficiencies and persuading advertisers to spend more online, Leal said making buying easier is key. “”Sometimes it’s not spending the dollars. It’s the effort that it takes to spend the dollars.””

Comment: pipeline@itbusiness.ca

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