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Thoughts on the IAB updating HTML5 display guidelines

August 19, 2015 4:12 pm
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Bring me up to speed on what you are talking about?

As per this article in The Drum:

The IAB have released a document for comments on new guidelines for HTML5 display advertising.

Why do I care?

Non-important Flash content will be paused in Chrome as of September. In our tests with the Chrome Beta, this generally means display ad content. Flash content already does not work on mobile/tablet devices, in their place  are banners created out of HTML, the same stuff webpages are made from. Flash banners are made out of this crusty crap from 15 years ago which while nearly ubiquitous across internet connected PC’s and Mac desktop devices also produce significant power usage issues and, more importantly, significant security issues. The industry will be moving to HTML5 banners as standard, which is a wonderful new thing for client services to sell in (dare I say it, maybe with a slightly higher margin??? I dream too much)

So what does this document say about the only thing I care about: permitted file sizes?

In a nutshell:

  • 200KB for the max initial file load size for standard desktop display creative sizes
  • 50KB for max initial file load size for standard mobile display creative sizes

This makes a huge difference to what we can deliver, how we deliver it and the timelines to delivery.

If you are still receiving old specs of 40kb for Flash you MUST to push back on this like a motherfudger. If you don’t push back on it I will be pushing you down the stairs whilst calling you a motherfudger.

Further to this Double-click announced in a blog post that they would be allowing “HTML5 ads by offering unlimited file sizes…for free” (, up from their previous creative file size of 1mb (

What does this mean for HTML 5 banners going forward?

There is still a lot of flux in this document (commenting closes 18 September) so things will change after this commenting period however the important thing is that we are still receiving ad specs from networks saying 40kb limit as you would for Flash. This is not acceptable. For example as per IAB documentation published prior to this new document (emphasis mine)

“HTML5 did not become an official recommendation until December 2012, nearly a year after the IAB Display Advertising Guidelines: The New 2012 Portfolio was released. As such file size limitations were not taken into account for ads developed using HTML5. Current file size limits for ads developed with Flash are sufficient because Flash files can be compiled, compressed, and packaged to accommodate smaller file sizes.

However HTML5 doesn’t have the compression and packaging capabilities and with high-density displays permeating the market, larger creative assets are necessary in HTML5 to produce crisp visuals.


(see section 2.2

40kb file sizes are unacceptable for HTML5 content, the IAB has made this clear… in 2013.

With Flash-ggeddon rapidly approaching this conversation is going to happen a lot. We have squandered an opportunity to be thought leaders in this arena a year ago when we first started discussing HTML5 banners internally due to both a lack of understanding and also a willingness to understand. What we do have is here is a greater opportunity here to better service clients and be seen as forward-thinking, thought leaders with a great understanding of the problem and solution to people outside of our industry whilst making lives easer for team members on both creative and client service teams.

Blow this opportunity and a set of stairs await you.

Wrap it up mate

This updated document from the IAB does not mean the end of the conversation or that implementation details for HTML5 display banners have been finalised by ourselves or by the greater industry. The conversation about what is creative’s remit and what is dev’s remit and what is the most efficient method of creation is ongoing. Best practice conversations are developing and ongoing. Technology and software conversations are ongoing. With all these headaches and heartaches to come having a coherent standing on the file size issue will be incredibly important.

This joint was penned by @elmarko