A Mobile Video Mission Statement: Enabling Scale, Ease & Consistency

In late 2012, my colleague Anna Bager declared that 2013 would be the Year of Mobile Video. That was a good prediction then, and we think 2014 will be the same or even more so. Last year saw a great deal of interest in and experimentation with mobile video both as pre-roll-in-stream and with non-video content-and in-banner.

This year, things will really take off, and mobile video will be pushed to scale, become more interactive, and deliver more measurable ROI for the marketers using it.

IAB’s existing video and mobile rich-media technical standards provide a framework for mobile video, and HTML5 is beginning to live up to its promise as the standard for creating multi-screen content. Without getting too technical, I’d like to outline where we see those standards going this year.

MRAID and the V-SUITE

The IAB’s Mobile Rich-media Ad Interface Definitions (MRAID) spec standardizes functionality for mobile, in-app, rich media ads. During the creation of MRAID, the working group made a conscious decision to exclude most video functionality. We deferred to the IAB’s technical specifications for digital video ads, VAST, VPAID, and V-MAP (collectively known as the “V-SUITE”), which have dramatically improved the landscape for creating and delivering digital video ads.

That was the right decision — and it squares with IAB’s belief that we shouldn’t build distinct specs for mobile unless it’s necessary. However, the line between a “rich media ad” and a “video ad” has blurred, the V-SUITE and MRAID increasingly bump into one another.

Let’s say someone wants to run a mobile expandable rich media ad that has video in it. There’s not currently a clear path for how an ad designer could or should embed a VAST video container or a VPAID-based video clip within an MRAID ad.

Alternatively, an ad designer may want to do a video spot that has some mobile-specific rich media capabilities built into it. But there’s no established best practice for invoking MRAID from within a VAST video container.

Individual vendors are working on solving these problems, and IAB is starting to collect examples of these solutions so that everyone can learn from them. We need to hear from the industry on this, and also on whether a more formal set of principles or best practices would be useful in creating and trafficking hybrid video-rich media ads.

One especially hot topic in conversations about marrying VAST and MRAID and/or VPAID and MRAID is VPAID’s standardized reporting metrics-most notably the video view quartile metrics (that is, did someone watch the first 25, 50, or 75 percent of an ad, or the whole thing). While other video formats can also report these metrics back to an ad server, the V-SUITE’s metrics events are widely adopted and well understood, and being able to leverage them in an MRAID environment would improve consistency.

Mobile Video and HTML5

HTML5 provides, for the first time, tools for enabling video playback baked into the standards for creating and delivering web content. The HTML5 < video> tag opens the door to simpler inclusion of video in mobile websites; however, there are some complications due to inconsistent support in different browsers and lack of some desirable features (e.g., digital rights management and full-screen playback).

The IAB’s guidance on using HTML5, published in late 2013, includes practical observations about the HTML5 < video> tag, but this is another area where ad designers would benefit from more instruction, explanation, and best practices.

Next Steps

MRAID, the V-SUITE, and HTML5 give ad designers a great set of standards for integrating sight, sound, and motion into mobile ads. However, we still have work to do in providing a clear set of instructions for using those standards, especially in tandem with one another, to unlock great mobile video ad experiences.

We expect that better and better ad creation tools will move ad designers away from the standards that make mobile advertising go, letting them simply create and leaving the code generation to the software. That day can’t come soon enough. But even then, having a rough sense of what’s going on under the hood of mobile video will help the creative community build better ads faster and with less frustration.

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