Will a lack of standard ad formats hurt the fledging mobile ad sector, or will it encourage innovation?
When the Mobile Marketing Association last week issued guidelines for mobile ads, one thing stood out. Four proposed banner ad formats differed in size from Google's mobile image ads, which were shown off publicly for the first time last week.
Which begs the question: will the emerging mobile channel suffer from the lack of standard ad formats? Mobile marketing experts contacted by ClickZ News don't think so.
"Guidelines are just that, they're not rules," said Bob Walczak, CEO of mobile ad-serving and publisher network Ringleader Digital. "That's probably been the biggest misnomer about ad standards, people see them as rules."
Documentation from the MMA offers four banner sizes: 300 x 50 pixels; 216 x 36 pixels; 168 x 28 pixels; and 120 x 20 pixels. Google's banner sizes differ: 305 x 64 pixels; 215 x 34 pixels; 192 x 34 pixels; and 167 x 30 pixels.
In an e-mail statement, a Google spokesman said the company worked with an older version of MMA's guidelines when developing AdWords mobile image ad formats. "Google image ads were compliant with MMA's previous recommendations for ad size. We think standards are one part of creating the best user experience, and Google will continue working with the MMA to ensure compliance with these and future guidelines." Google is a member of the MMA.
MMA guidelines are updated twice a year. Earlier versions of the guidelines were unavailable on the MMA Web site.
Walczak, who served on the ad standards committee in 2005, views guidelines as a starting point for agencies and brands. In addition, he said carriers may take MMA standards into consideration, but will develop their own standards as well.
The difference between the association's and Google's banner ad sizes is an example of how standards evolve, said Roger Wood, general manager, Americas region, of mobile technology firm Amobee. "De jure standards should influence de facto standards, and vice versa," he said. "The realities of the marketplace should influence the standards of the marketplace. You can't put standards in place that ignore that marketplace or they'd be rendered obsolete."
Tom Limongello, sales director at Crisp Wireless, said standards important from a sales perspective. "If somebody strays from the standards, it creates either confusion or nervousness within the sales community if they're working with the right standards," he said.
But, he held out hope that Google can help improve the medium instead of cause confusion.
"There is limited real estate on the phone, and if Google is going to create ways for there to be more ads over more pages, what's important is that if it's not going to increase the amount of time someone is looking at their phone, it's creating better messaging," Linongello said. "The time of day, better content, that type of plus in the industry is going to make things really interesting."
An executive from MMA wasn't available for comment on its guidelines, or Google's banner ad sizes.
In the still nascent industry, there's still a need for mobile advertising guidelines, and room for independence from the documentation, said Amobee's Wood. "We all have the same goal, the MMA and Google have the same goal, which is the shifting of dollars from the offline formats to mobile," he said "Innovative approaches created by the marketplace leaders and guidelines created by the MMA... That's a good thing."
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