The Interactive Advertising Bureau today will invite its members to help smooth out the wrinkles in differing IAB interface standards for mobile and PC advertising that make cross-platform advertising a headache.
Right now, the three application propagation interfaces, and even some of the casual language used to describe features, isn’t the same.
In time, the IAB fears, the differences could retard the business that already makes it hard for advertisers to easily run ads on mobile and PC devices.
The Gartner information technology and research firm confirms a mushrooming business in mobile advertising. This year, it estimates global mobile advertising spend to go near $18 billion, up from the estimated $13.1 billion in 2013. By 2017, the market should reach nearly $42 billion, Gartner says.
IAB obviously sees the trend too and wants to make sure its specs and standards get out of the way. “What we want to do in the short term, rather than rewriting those specs, is put together a kind of best-practices document that takes the kind of hacky ways people are combining them today and identify what are the best ways to do that,” says Joe Laszlo, senior director of IAB’s Mobile Marketing Center of Excellence.
“We want to lay out a road map so that eventually we can make the standards more convergent with each other. But even in the short term, it’s definitely feasible to just kind of give guidance to the industry about ways to use them.”
Laszlo says this morning he’ll post a blog to the IAB Web site making that pitch to members. The IAB also will publish on its site a kind of white paper that explains the problem; no doubt most of the members are already familiar with it.
Right now, there are three technical specifications to handle rich media: VPAID, which stands for Video Player Ad Interface Definition is widely used for video ads on PCs. MRAID, which stands for Mobile Rich Media Ad Interface Definition, is used for mobile ads. A third standard, SafeFrame, is used for ads that appear in iframes on players, used when the ad is isolated from other content on a site.
In his blog, Laszlo says: “Over the long-term, there’s no question that we should place VPAID, SafeFrame, and MRAID on a convergence path. But that’s necessarily going to be a lengthy process.”
In the short term, the IAB wants a workable interim plan.
“But what do you do when you want to develop and serve an ad to both Web and mobile app or run and measure video within a mobile reach media creative?’ the IAB document asks. “What if you want to take that same ad and run it within a video player without incurring extensive overhead costs to create, manage and track performance for a the different formats? A common cross-platform approach should be possible given that the underlying technology for running all three types of ads is quickly converging to common Web standard: HTML5.”
Laszlo hopes that agencies that already have workarounds help the IAB arrive at a plan.
“There are definitely some proprietary solutions to the specific issues around the video standard and mobile rich standards right now,” he says, “and we do want to see if there are common themes, commonalities. And so hopefully, the companies that have sort of worked out their own proprietary solutions will be willing to sit down at the table and evolve their solutions to become the IAB best practices of the future.
“I think we would wish that would be the path this process would go down. The question is how many companies have solutions and how distinct are they from one another? My sense, from the conversations I have had so far, is that most people are gravitating to the same basic principles for building an MRAID solution.”
If IAB members can agree at some point on a solution proposed by even a few companies, Laszlo says, “that’s a very fast path to market for us. As all of these companies think about their options, there’s the long, slow consensus-building way and there’s the ‘hey, let’s just do it this way.’ There’s some good financial reasons to go the quicker, more expedient path.”
In fact, Laszlo says, the development of MRAID more or less worked that way. A coalition of companies developed some standards to a certain point, and then came to IAB to get the larger interactive ad community to get on board.
“This is an ecosystem,” Laszlo said. “I hate that word because it’s overused; all of these companies compete. But they also work with one another, so it’s very rare that a solution is just one company’s. It’s usually several companies that have latched on to it and adopted it, and that helps give different approaches some momentum and make more attractive starting points.”