The 5-Second Rule For Internet Advertising

My 11 year-old daughter played in a YMCA basketball tournament last weekend, and was shocked to learn that when she held the ball for more than five seconds, without passing it, the referee would give it to the other team.

It turns out that’s a good rule for Internet advertising as well.

The FAST Forward initiative launched by the Internet advertising community last year came out with its first guidelines on March 2, and the five-second rule was prominent among them.

The headline was the group’s definition of an Interactive Standard Advertising Unit (ISAU). An ISAU should download in no more then five or six seconds, so its absolute size rises with access speed. For those with 28.8 Kbps modems, this means a Web ad banner of 10-12 K in size. Users with 56 Kbps modems could handle a 20-24 K ad, while those lucky enough to have ADSL modems could live with banners as big as 288 K each.

“The overall objective is to increase consumer acceptance and usage of online media and advertising,” explained Robin Webster, senior vice president of the Association of National Advertisers.

By varying the ad size with the speed of the connection, ISAUs offer a steady route toward increased banner complexity. You should also note that the form of the ad isn’t subject to the guidelines, but in practice modem users should accept animation, and are unlikely to accept streaming banners.

For big advertisers, the new guidelines will create demand for ad server software that can tell how fast users are accessing a site, and adapt to them. The guidelines should also create interest in larger ads, pushing the patience of even those users with broadband access to the net.

Just remember the basic rule. If you try to hold a user for more than five or six seconds, without passing them on to content, they’re going to call a turnover on your offer.

What do you think? Let’s talk about it.

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