The Mobile Creative Moment

The IAB office was abuzz last week with the judging for the 2013 IAB MIXX Awards. Great digital ad creative is therefore much on our institutional mind, making this an opportune moment to take stock of where smartphone and tablet creative is and where it’s going. I think the news is good.

Creative Standards Gain Traction

Although mobile native advertising opportunities, which tend to be highly customized to individual media properties, are generating excitement this year, there is also a need for standard ad units that create scale and consistency across publishers.

IAB currently fields a range of standard phone ad units: our Mobile Phone Creative Guidelines for basic banners and our Mobile Rising Stars for richer, more branding-friendly campaigns (on smartphones and tablets). The Mobile Rising Stars are gaining traction. Most recently, the NFL announced a new mobile app last week designed to support Mobile Rising Stars. Creatives are doing some great work with these formats, too. Preliminary research demonstrates that, as one might expect, the Mobile Rising Stars formats are much more noticeable and engaging than static mobile banners.

Standards that define the look and feel of smartphone and tablet ads are one aspect of making mobile creative scale better, but the under-the-hood standards for mobile rich media ads are equally important.

Look for the MRAID Label

MRAID, IAB’s Mobile Rich-Media Ad Interface Definitions, helps standardize communication between in-app rich media ads and the mobile “container” (app or SDK) that’s running them. MRAID has seen strong adoption by vendors and publishers alike (here is a list of compliant companies), and I am impressed by how fast the acronym has become a buzzword in the industry.

That said, some buyers are starting to require MRAID compliance from vendors that operate outside the in-app, rich media ad space. A company that does static mobile banners, pure mobile video (no rich media enhancements), or exclusively mobile web ads doesn’t need MRAID. IAB members are exploring ways to better educate the market about where MRAID is, and is not, applicable.

MRAID has already improved mobile rich media scalability, but small variations in implementations can make it challenging to ensure an MRAID ad will run in all MRAID-compliant containers. It’s a huge improvement on the world before MRAID: ads generally only need to be tweaked, not entirely rebuilt. But we can do better. This fall, IAB will release a suite of official MRAID test creatives. This will create a higher and more consistent bar for compliance with MRAID, helping iron out those inconsistencies.

HTML5 Defines the Mobile Creative Paradigm

HTML5 is the most important industry standard for creating mobile content and ads. Moreover, HTML5 is not just mobile – it’s changing content development on PCs and other devices, too. However, HTML5 represents a significant break from the world creative designers knew previously.

In order for cross-screen/platform campaigns to become more common, the industry needs more HTML5 creative developers, more tools to help build and QA HTML5 ads, and more guidance for ad development. The IAB’s HTML5 for Digital Advertising 1.0: Guidance for Ad Designers & Creative Technologists helps address that last need.

One example of an HTML5 challenge relates to ad file sizes. Ad designers have long lived in a world where rich media ads consist of a single tidy, optimized file created using Adobe’s Flash. By contrast, an HTML5 ad comprises multiple assets and even directories, including JavaScript libraries, that must all be delivered for an ad to render. The IAB guidance discusses the need to keep track of those assets and to optimize them so that they don’t result in overly large file sizes.

Ad format standards, MRAID, and guidance on HTML5 are three of the ways the industry is mitigating mobile creative fragmentation. The constantly changing mobile landscape means there’s always more to do, but it is exciting to help the smart companies and individuals in mobile come together to enable engaging ads that can reach large audiences.

Image on home page via Shutterstock.

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