IAB Standards and IAB Standard Ad Sizes: A Guide for Publishers

Brock Munro
December 22, 2021
March 20, 2024
IAB Standards and IAB Standard Ad Sizes: A Guide for Publishers

The digital advertising industry's rapid growth has made it vital to implement a universal set of standards in order to streamline the advertising process.

Three year 2020-2022 internet advertising revenue trend
Source: IAB (PDF download)

This is where the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), and its standards, comes in. This globally recognized organization sets the bar for industry best practices and guidelines, fostering transparency, accountability, and innovation within the advertising ecosystem.

For publishers, understanding and adhering to these IAB standards, including IAB standard ad sizes, can significantly improve their ability to succeed in a dynamic and competitive market. 

The IAB's standards help publishers and advertisers follow a unified set of technical measures and solutions. These standards:

  • Ensure brand safety and lower ad fraud
  • Safeguard consumer privacy and enable responsible data use
  • Maintain consistency in ad measurement and experiences
  • Drive efficiency and transparency in ad measurements
The IAB Standards can simplify and speed up your advertising journey
Source: IAB Tech Lab

IAB standards serve as a set of best practices for publishers and advertisers alike, while helping to maintain a balance between publishers and users. The goal is to facilitate advertising that doesn't encourage users to download ad blockers. A little more than a third of the world’s internet users aged 16-64 use an ad blocker.

Let's review the IAB's New Ad Portfolio as well as the body's standard ad units to understand how these guidelines can streamline your digital advertising experience.

About IAB and IAB Tech Lab


The IAB, established in 1996, is the leading association in the digital advertising field. It focuses on creating standards and guidelines for the advertising industry along with educating those working in the sector.

IAB Tech Lab

The IAB Technology Laboratory (Tech Lab) is a nonprofit organization that was established in 2014 to develop foundational technology and standards for the advertising industry.

The IAB Tech Lab comprises ad tech firms, digital publishers, marketers, agencies, and other member companies. It ensures that multiple parties can collaborate on ad fraud, consumer privacy, ad measurement, and programmatic effectiveness.

The body's responsibilities include the Open RTB real-time bidding protocol, Open Measurement SDK for viewability and verification, ads.txt anti-fraud specification, Project Rearc for identity addressability, VAST tags and video specification, data accountability and consumer privacy.

IAB New Ad Portfolio

The IAB Tech Lab released the IAB New Ad Portfolio in July 2017. The New Ad Portfolio guidelines replaced all previous creative display guidelines for desktop and mobile—including rich media units, Universal Ad Package (UAP), and other ad units related guidance.

The IAB describes the New Ad Portfolio's guidelines as a “comprehensive recommendation” of advertising experiences across mobile apps, websites, social media, messaging experiences, and new digital experiences such as virtual reality and augmented reality.

IAB New Ad Portfolio
Source: IAB (PDF download)

User intent and user privacy were the driving force behind the majority of the changes to IAB standard ads.

The IAB New Ad Portfolio comprises native ads, display ads and new media experiences such as emoji ads, virtual reality ads, augmented reality ads and 360-degree image and video ads.

The transition's main focus was to create lightweight, cross-screen, and flexible size ads that execute LEAN principles.

The New Ad Portfolio focuses on a more satisfactory user experience, more rapid load performance and non-disruptive ad content based on the following principles:

  • Respect: A user's primary objective is consuming publisher content.
  • Control: A consumer can control his/her advertising experience.
  • Choice: A consumer can decide what type of content they want to experience and for how long.

Also Read: What Are Leaderboard Ads?

Flexible Ads

Flexible Ads
Source: IAB Tech Lab

The major transition has been toward flexibility in terms of ad pixel sizes.

A flexible ad unit ensures that ads can be integrated with both website and mobile-friendly designs, and at the same time, they maintain their aspect ratio and modify according to the screen size. They also improve operational efficiency for publishers. 


Source: IAB Tech Lab

The new IAB standards focus on LEAN (light, encrypted, AdChoices supported, and non-invasive) ads. It means that an ad must:

  • Use lightweight file loads during the initial page load
  • Minimize or eliminate render blocking scripts, such as CSS and JavaScripts, during initial load
  • Use subload for rendering ad experiences that require heavy file weights
  • Minimize the number of files requested during initial load
  • Make user initiation required for ad functionality that needs large file downloads

Publishers can review the full specs of flexible and LEAN ads.

IAB Standard Ads

To combat the problem of different ad sizes, the online advertising industry standardized ad sizes so publishers and advertisers don't need to worry about running ad campaigns.

IAB standard ads commonly refer to a set of the three most common ad sizes: 728×90 (leaderboard), 300×250 (medium rectangle) and 160×600 (skyscraper).

These are now part of the broader New Ad Portfolio and are considered the most profitable ad sizes in the ad tech industry.

By embracing common ad sizes, publishers can maximize their websites' display ad earnings. As such, publisher adoption of these sizes is likely to remain high.

IAB standard ads

IAB Standard Sizes for Ads

Leaderboard, medium rectangle and skyscraper are typically what you will see on most web pages.

However, the New Ad Portfolio also includes other ad sizes, including smartphone banner (300×50, 320×50), billboard (970×250), and portrait (300×600).

While the digital advertising industry favors three ad sizes, publishers should experiment with different ad sizes to find which delivers the highest returns. Using different ad sizes can also help counter banner blindness, concern emerges while leveraging the popular or standard ad sizes.

Benefits of IAB Standards

  • IAB standards simplify the creation of ad inventory.
  • The IAB New Ad Portfolio adopts sizes based on aspect ratio as opposed to fixed pixel sizes, allowing ad units to display consistently across multiple devices.
  • IAB offers guidelines for publishers exploring new technologies around social media, augmented, virtual reality, and even emoji ads.
  • The New Ad Portfolio focuses on faster load performance to provide a better user experience and make sure that ads render as quickly as possible.
  • Publishers looking to monetize their sites through ad networks such as Google AdSense will find that IAB standard ads maximize their display ad earnings.

Final Thoughts

While the IAB recommends advertisers and publishers follow its standards and practices, these guidelines are not mandatory.

However, given that the digital advertising industry's three most popular ad sizes are part of the IAB New Ad Portfolio, it seems clear that most within the industry understand the commercial advantages of standard sizing.

In order to remain relevant and increase revenue, publishers' should work with the IAB's recommended practices and guidelines.

Publift helps digital publishers get the most out of the ads on their websites. Publift has helped its clients realize an average 55% uplift in ad revenue since 2015,  through the use of cutting-edge programmatic advertising technology paired with impartial and ethical guidance. 

Contact us today to learn more about how Publift can help increase your ad revenue and best optimize the ad space available on your website or app.

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