The IAB Sets Some Standards For Social Ads

Editor’s note: Nick Gonzalez is a Director of Marketing at, which makes “People Powered Ad” products.

Before the advent of ad standards from the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), the online advertising world was fragmented between any number of display formats. When the IAB launched IAB standards in 1996, an agency could buy media across numerous properties without adjusting the creative.

Buying online media became more efficient. Importantly, it freed up advertisers to focus around the message and not the format of the advertisement.
Today, the IAB has once again stepped in to help bring clear standards to online advertising with a new set of best practices for social media advertising. It’s a welcome change because advertising has been far behind the consumer space with respect to implementing the kinds of social functionality that has made social media properties like Twitter, MySpace and Facebook so popular.

As part of a company that makes social ads, I’m excited that the IAB has released a new set of social advertising best practices to help bring consistency to the marketplace, similar to the way IAB standards brought efficiency to online advertising back in the 90’s.

The best practices, which were announced at a conference today, include definitions of social ad elements, examples of social ads, recommendations for consumer opt-in, and guidelines for privacy standards. The IAB defines a social ad as:

An online ad that incorporates user interactions that the consumer has agreed to display and be shared. The resulting ad displays these interactions along with the user’s persona (picture and/or name) within the ad content.

The ingredients of a social ad can include profile data, social targeting (by encouraging people to pass ads along to their friends), and social interactions within the ad itself, such as sharing or commenting. The IAB’s guidelines are clear that consumers should have control over what data is shared with their friends, in what context, and that social ads should be explicitly opt-in, with the option to opt out at any time:

Since it is essential for social ads to be trusted in order to achieve broad adoption, it is important for consumers to have visibility and control of what can be shared with their social connections

The standards were developed as part of a 151-company committee with 218 members (yup, that was fun) including MySpace, Microsoft, Google, Facebook,, CBS, Accenture, PriceWaterhouseCoopers LLC, Condé Nast Digital, IDG Entertainment, and Nielsen Online. You can see one of the many example ads above, and the entire document embedded below.
Social Media Ad Standards