In Depth

IAB Reaches for Web Video Ad Standards

Underscoring the urgent need for advertising standards in the online video business, the Interactive Advertising Bureau is launching its first effort this week to develop best practices for ads in TV shows on the Web.

The IAB effort centers on “long-form” Web programs, including full episodes of TV shows that run online such as ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” or Fox’s “House.”

Grey’s Anatomy

The IAB’s latest initiative reflects the growth in online video viewing. According to comScore, Internet users in the United States are watching more than 14 billion videos each month. TV series are a relatively small portion of that total, but they command the bulk of online ad dollars. Research firm eMarketer predicts online video advertising will grow 45% this year to $850 million.

At its initial meeting this week, the IAB’s digital video committee will tackle issues surrounding best practices for the number and placement of ads in online TV shows, said Jeremy Fain, VP of industry services at the IAB.

“Digital video has seen probably the biggest explosion of innovation over the last few years, and that has also led to some confusion in the marketplace,” he said. “With long-form there has not been a lot of discussion on best practices when it comes to ads.”

Early research into how receptive viewers are to ads in TV shows online comes from ABC.

Earlier this year, ABC said its research found that doubling the ad load from four to eight ads in an hourlong show online doesn’t decrease consumer interest.

That’s the sort of information the IAB wants to build on when it kicks off its best practices work this week. The online video ad industry also is eager to develop a consensus on standards—especially what constitutes a view for an online video. Many ad deals are structured based on the number of views a clip gets.

“Our industry is in desperate need of standardized metrics and nomenclature that accurately reflect consumer behavior,” said Jordan Levin, CEO of multimedia production company Generate and the former head of The WB.

His solution lies in technology.

“All Web video must allow for open-source, encoded technology to provide consistent measurement across players and platforms,” Mr. Levin said.

Advertisers and producers also would benefit from a simple and standardized definition of what constitutes a view.

“Perhaps a 30-second or 60-second requirement on a view across all video players [would work],” said Marc Hustvedt, co-founder of Tubefilter.TV, an online video news site. “Frankly we need a quick, standardized and easily understandable metric for how many people watched that video. The public understands Nielsen ratings that get published in USA Today. We need a number that’s that simple.”

As standards take shape, it’s important to remember that every advertiser is different. Some want views and some want a specific audience, said Keith Richman, CEO of online video network Break Media.

The proliferation of distribution outlets makes measuring video on TV and on the Web more difficult, said Adam Gerber, CEO of online audience measurement firm Quantcast.

“Every video experience is programmed, delivered and consumed differently. ‘Views’ are meaningless if they are calculated on an ad hoc basis, without regard for what marketers care most about—an understanding of the audience that is engaged and being delivered,” he said.