The online advertising ecosystem is complicated. Really complicated. Probably way too complicated.

Massive growth has fueled massive innovation, and the arrival of a smorgasbord of companies ready to deliver value at every step.

But just as quickly as new ad technologies emerge, everyone seems to disagree on how to talk about them.

Take for instance, the rise of mobile.

In describing differences between mobile devices and not-so-mobile devices — one of the most fundamental topic in web technology today — it seems hard to find a clear term for those not-so-mobile devices. Examine the following sentences for instance:

  • “Our campaign includes both desktop and mobile ads.”
  • “Our campaign includes both display and mobile ads.”
  • “Our campaign includes both web and mobile ads.”

All three are equally unclear in my opinion.

Widespread adoption of TV as an interactive screen is close on the horizon as well. Will this be grouped with mobile as another “device,” or considered a desktop computer because of the screen size and lack of portability? How does Flash vs. HTML5 factor in — if TVs share a need for HTML5 like mobile devices?

Here are some other questions I often hear:

Are content ads rich media? Are they something else? Perhaps they are native ads?

Probably the most-asked:

What exactly is native advertising? 

I’m not going to touch the native question here, but we have written other articles on the topic.

We, ad tech companies, advertisers, agencies, publishers, all of us need to get closer together. Through the adoption of more standards, everyone in the ad ecosystem benefits.

  • We can have clearer conversations about the issues that matter most
  • It becomes easier to buy and sell inventory, in a programmatic fashion or otherwise
  • Media planning — which is already overly complex — doesn’t get any more complicated

Of course, there is any always will be a role for custom media and differentiating terms in advertising. Any time you really want to stand out, it may be time to go toward something new.

But customization within constraints is also possible.

Take the IAB Rising Star units. Within reasonable constraints around size and functionality, these formats leave a lot of space for creativity. And best of all, if you want to run them on various sites, they’re a known commodity.

On basic things like size, file weight, expected behavior, metrics definitions — we all need to work together to achieve consensus. Its fundamental for us to be able to do business with each other.

And most of all, our common language must get closer together.

So, what word do you prefer to distinguish between desktop and laptop computers, and phones, tablets and other devices?

Where is your boundary for what counts as a native ad?