MMA Releases Guidelines for Banner Ads on Phones

It may have an audience as tiny as its screens, but the mobile Web has just gotten its first set of banner ad guidelines.

The specifications (PDF), released by the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA), discuss graphical banners, text “banners” and ad units that combine the two. In addition to their treatment of the ads themselves, the guidelines discuss the appropriate use of landing pages and direct response features.

“It’s about ensuring the right guidelines are in place before it gets out of control,” said Laura Marriott, executive director of the MMA. “We’re coming out with these guidelines to protect the consumer experience. We want to make sure we have ads that are optimized for the handsets, and we want to make sure we protect the integrity of the content.”

The suggested best practices, which are modeled on the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s ad guidelines, describe several banner units in two formats: WML (define) and xHTML (define). The units include a black and white bitmap graphic ad that’s 80 x 15 pixels; a two-line text ad, with 12 to 16 characters per line; and a 16-color dual image/text banner, among others.

The guidelines come well in advance of any large-scale adoption of wireless banner advertising by marketers and agencies. Text messaging remains a far more popular means of targeting offers to consumers on their phones, and even SMS has exhibited slower growth than was initially expected.

“If the industry has any chance whatsoever, it’s important to get all the stakeholders to say, ‘Hey that’s a workable format,'” said Heidi Lehmann, VP of strategic alliances at Third Screen Media and chair of the MMA ad standards committee that developed the guidelines. The committee also included representatives of Enpocket, Nextel, The Weather Channel Interactive and Yahoo

“The agencies are ready to go,” said Lehmann. “The advertisers are ready to go. The carriers have been the block in the road. This year, they’re coming around and saying, ‘Hey, the money would be nice…’ The MMA Ad Standards committee has been working with the carriers along with agencies, publishers and service providers on how best to roll out mobile advertising initiatives to protect all constituents.”

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