Mobile Takes First Steps of Standardization

Over 15 years on, the desktop Web still hasn’t worked out some thorny standards issues. In mobile, it’s just getting underway, attempting to  address one of them with the agreement to standards for the creation of in-app rich media ads this week.

Although there are more pressing issues that continue to inhibit the medium’s growth – such as targeting and measurement limitations and continued format fragmentation — there’s a need to start somewhere. The more difficult areas still remain.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau’s “Mobile Rich Media Ad Interface Definitions,” or MRAID, are designed to promote consistency across in-app mobile ads, which in turn places less of a burden on advertisers. Instead of agencies and developers being required to code the same ad numerous times for various platforms or rich media vendors, for example, they can instead implement a common API and run creative across apps from different publishers, networks and vendors.

Ultimately, that’ll save advertisers and agencies time, money, and effort, according the IAB Mobile Marketing Center of Excellence’s deputy director, Joe Laszlo.

“The key goal is to speed the growth of mobile by making it easier for agencies to develop cool mobile ads without tedious reworking… Ad developers previously needed to rewrite code multiple times, which was becoming an increasing point of friction in the marketplace.”

While the IAB identifies certain priorities in-house, the industry itself was pushing for these standards, Laszlo went on to suggest. A number of its members were hearing complaints from agencies about fragmentation.

According to Eric Litman, CEO of mobile rich media firm Medialets, the major benefit of the MRAID standards will be efficiency. Previously, mobile ad dollars were being redirected or returned unspent if scale audiences couldn’t be reached with one vendor. Now advertisers can, in theory, take one creative and run it with multiple providers.

“When buyers think of buying at scale the cost of executing across multiple rich media vendors starts to skyrocket,” he said. “It’s expensive develop for each of them. This was a pretty big issue in the app space. The fragmentation was inhibiting scale.” Medialets has already implemented the MRAID standards in its own rich media product.

The inability to buy scale audiences continues to plague the mobile channel. It is why many advertisers continue to turn to ad networks for their media. MRAID might help address that issue to some extent, but arguably more pressing problems such as inadequate measurement techniques and inconsistent ad formats are frequently highlighted the mobile channel’s weaknesses.

“It’s hard to speak to any one of these things and say it’s more important than any of the others, ” said Laszlo. They’re all tied together,” he said. “There’s definitely a lot to be done, and we’re in the early days of working through some of these challenges.”

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