IAB unveils a new Ad Unit Portfolio


On October 25, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB)—responsible for setting online ad guidelines and best practices—held a webinar to review an ambitious overhaul of its Ad Standards Portfolio.

So why the overhaul?

The new portfolio of ad units aims to address concerning trends, including an increase in the adoption of ad blockers and content delivery platforms like Google AMP and Apple News that limit ad integrations. The IAB has asserted that, as publishers focused on margins and increased automation, their audiences have increasingly encountered invasive interstitials, purposefully-hidden opt-outs, auto-play videos, and recurring-ad fatigue. Sites have grown heavy with extended load times often caused primarily by third-party ad servers and content discovery platforms like Outbrain and Taboola.

“We messed up,” wrote Scott Cunningham, Senior Vice President of Tech and Ad Ops at IAB. “As technologists tasked with delivering content and services to users, we lost track of the user experience.”

Time to get LEAN

IAB’s proposed solution is its new LEAN Ads Program: Lightweight, Encrypted, Ad Choice supported, and Non-invasive. LEAN strives to optimize the reader experience with quicker load times, by limiting the volume of ads, and instituting “frequency capping” on retargeting (ever see an ad for the sneakers you already purchased?).

IAB insists that these principles do not replace current ad standards, instead existing as an alternative that could create more value over time.

“Publishers should have the opportunity to provide rich advertising experiences, LEAN advertising experiences, and subscription services. Or publishers can simply deny their service to users who choose to keep on blocking ads. That is all part of elasticity of consumer tolerance and choice.”—Scott Cunningham, VP of Tech/Ad Ops, IAB

Enter the new Ad Portfolio

IAB’s new Standard Ad Unit Portfolio features multiple, “flexible” ad units designed for responsive web layouts, meaning, they will look their best across display sizes. Display ads, mobile ads, video ads, and native ads auto-size at specific breakpoints.The Portfolio also introduces guidelines for new forms of content, like virtual reality, 360-degree video ads, as well as social messaging ads that use emojis and stickers. In one example, Coca-Cola created an augmented-reality experience around their cans:

Finally, Load Performance guidelines require ads to:

  • Use fewer and lighter weight assets during initial load of the page;
  • Minimize render blocking scripts like CSS and JavaScript during initial load;
  • Delay large file downloads until the viewer interacts with the unit;
  • Defer ads with heavy file weights to a “subload”—preventing the unit from loading heavier assets until the ad requires them.


The IAB provides a “weight chart” in its Portfolio as well, with file size guidance for all industry-standard creative unit sizes and types.


Looking Forward

IAB’s LEAN program offers a promising path for web ads, suggesting a future where advertising can be compelling and interactive, without the heaviness and other annoyances that has spurred consumers to shun them. Consistent with our mission to “make a better web,” we’re eager to help clients take advantage of the new standards and portfolio.

For more information, or to submit public comment ahead of the November 28 cut-off for feedback, you can visit the IAB Ad Unit Portfolio at www.iab.com/newadportfolio/ And of course, if you’re looking for implementation support or consultation, our Audience & Revenue team would love to help.

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