The Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) provides recommendations for the global ad units broadly used in mobile advertising in the following mobile media channels: Mobile Web, messaging, applications and mobile video and TV.

The Guidelines recommend ad unit usage best practices, creative technical specifications, as well as guidance on ad insertion and delivery necessary to implement mobile advertising initiatives.
The MMA’s “Global Mobile Advertising Guidelines” are widely used in the market today and are based on best practices and optimal consumer experiences, aiming to promote the development of advertising on mobile phones by:

  • Reducing the effort required to produce creative material,
  • Ensuring that advertisements display effectively on the majority of mobile phones
  • Providing an engaging, non-intrusive consumer experience.

The MMA’s Mobile Advertising Overview is a supplemental document that provides an overview of the mobile media channels that are available to advertisers today, as well as the benefits of, and considerations for, optimizing campaign effectiveness and strengthening consumer satisfaction.

The MMA guidelines are the result of ongoing collaboration across the MMA Mobile Advertising Committee with representation from companies in Asia Pacific (APAC), Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), Latin America (LATAM) and North America (NA). Committee members are representative of all parties in the mobile marketing ecosystem, including handset manufacturers, operators, content providers, agencies, brands and technology enablers.

The target audience for these guidelines is all companies and individuals involved in the commissioning, creation, distribution and hosting of mobile advertising. The MMA Mobile Advertising
Guidelines present a baseline through which widespread adoption will accelerate market development and ensure consumer satisfaction.

Universal Mobile Ads

In order to make preferred MMA ad units easier to define, adopt and reference, a subset of advertising units have been defined as “universal” mobile ad units. These “universal” mobile ad units already enjoy broad support across the industry.

The model for this package of ad unit identification is the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s Universal Ad Package (UAP). The MMA hopes to adopt a similar structure in the future and is working on an initiative with the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) to drive accuracy in the measurement of mobile ad units.

Publishers who are compliant with the MMA Mobile Advertising Guidelines will provide advertisers with at least one of the ad units designated “universal” in this document, and will attest that those ad units have the ability to reach the majority of that publisher’s audience. Publishers are also free to offer more ad units beyond universal units.

Advertisers can be sure that by producing creative material according to these universal ad units, they will be able to advertise through publishers who are compliant with the MMA Mobile Advertising Guidelines. Advertisers are not obliged to provide all ad units in every case. Also, advertisers are free to use ad units beyond those defined as universal.

Mobile Web

The Mobile Web features text and graphics optimized to match the specific screen resolutions and browser capabilities of each user’s mobile phone. Therefore, a smartphone with a high resolution screen can be served large, visually rich ads and a mobile phone with fewer resources can be served light-weight ads designed for small screens with limited resolution.

In order to accommodate the wide range of mobile phone capabilities, it is recommended that advertisers produce and provide ad creative in a few pre-defined dimensions, discussed in this section. The appropriate ad unit is selected from this set of pre-defined forms based on a particular mobile phone model’s capabilities so that it best fits the mobile phone’s display. This approach helps ensure a good user experience and increases process and campaign effectiveness.

  1. Mobile Web Advertising Unit Definitions

    The recommended ad units for Mobile Web are as follows:

    • Mobile Web Banner Ad is a universal colour graphics ad unit displayed on a Mobile Web site. The universal Mobile Web Banner Ad is defined as a still image intended for use in mass-market campaigns where the goal is a good user experience across all mobile phone models, network technologies and data bandwidths. In some cases, particularly in Europe, animated Mobile Web Banner Ads may be available for supplemental use in campaigns to convey a rich media experience. All Mobile Web Banner Ads must be clickable by the end user and may be placed in any location on a Mobile Web site. Supplementary, a Mobile Web Banner Ad can be followed by a Text Tagline Ad to emphasize the clickable character of the ad unit.
    • WAP 1.0 Banner Ad is a supplemental black-and-white, still graphics ad unit for use in campaigns that target older mobile phones. A WAP 1.0 Banner Ad can be followed by a supplemental Text Tagline Ad to emphasize the clickable character of the ad unit.
    • Text Tagline Ad is a supplemental ad unit displaying only text. Text links may be used in older mobile phones not capable of supporting graphical images and/ or by publishers that prefer to use text ads instead of graphical ads on their mobile sites.
  2. Mobile Web Banner Ad Specifications The recommended specification for a Mobile Web ad unit consists of a series of specification components, i.e. aspect ratios, media formats, dimensions and file sizes. When providing inventory specifications, publishers should remember to also quantify those parameters they support. Agencies and advertisers should remember to verify the specifications with each publisher on their media plan.

    Specification Components

    a) Aspect Ratios The recommended universal aspect ratios for Mobile Web Banner Ads are 6:1 and 4:1. Key considerations for providing universal aspect ratios include:

    • Keeping the aspect ratio constant simplifies resizing of images and reduces effort.
    • Both aspect ratios provide sufficient creative space to ensure an effective advertising experience, yet small enough not to be intrusive. Having two aspect ratios gives publishers flexibility in terms of layout and positioning in different contexts

    b) Dimensions The recommended universal Mobile Web Banner Ad widths are 120, 168, 216 and 300 pixels. Establishing guidelines for Mobile Ad unit dimensions has several benefits:

    • Limiting the amount of distinct dimensions reduces the amount of time and resources spent on creative production.
    • Dimensions selected provide a good fit for the majority of mobile phones. Dimensions selected for Mobile Web Banner Ads provide for an exact pixel height for both ratios defined which simplifies scaling of the creative.
    c) Media Formats The recommended formats for Mobile Web Banner Ads are:
    • GIF, PNG or JPEG as universal formats for still images.
    • GIF for animated images.

    d) File Size The maximum graphic file size is dependent on the banner chosen. Commonly between > 1 - 7.5 KB file size.

    e) Character Limits for Text Taglines Character limits (rather than file size limits) are applicable for Text Taglines appended to Mobile Web Banner Ads. Screen width has no effect on text tagline sizes – recommendation between 10 to 24 characters.

  3. Mobile Web Advertising Creative Design Principles

    In addition to the MMA Mobile Advertising Guidelines, other established guidelines for Mobile Web content delivery should apply to Mobile Web sites containing image banners, as well as to Mobile Web sites that users reach via links in image banners (post-click), such as jump pages, campaign sites and self-contained, permanent third-party Mobile Web sites.

    More detailed design principles and style guides for Mobile Web sites can be found in the W3C Mobile Web Best Practices at Irrespective of using supplemental text taglines, the MMA recommends that advertisements contain some form of call-to-action clearly identifiable by the user (e.g., “find out more” icon button).

    Text taglines are a supplemental feature that can be added to Mobile Web Banner Ad.

    Limitations: Mobile Web Banner Ads with text taglines together use more real estate (space in the usable browser window), typically at the expense of other Web elements, such as navigation and content. Media owners and publishers need to make a case-by-case decision about what best suits their business requirements.

  4. Mobile Web Advertising Insertion and Delivery

    The following recommendations are for Mobile Web advertising insertion and delivery, as appropriate to the technology.

    a) Ad Indicators
    Some publishers and markets recommend or require the use of ad indicators (signifiers) when displaying an ad unit. The publisher or local market guidelines define the exact format and placement of the ad indicator. Indicators are used with both text and banner ads:

    • A Text link ad indicator is defined as text used to indicate the text link is an ad. An example is the use of “Ad:” preceding the ad text link.
    • A Banner ad indicator is defined as a portion of the Mobile Web Banner Ad used to display the ad indicator and indicate the Mobile Web Banner Ad is an ad unit rather than content. The indicator typically is located on the side or the corner of the ad unit and may use text (e.g., “AD” in English speaking markets) or an icon.
    When choosing to use an ad indicator, the MMA recommends that the ad indicator be included with the creative ad.
    b) Functionality
    • Automatic resizing of Mobile Web banners: Some publishers and ad-serving solutions provide a capability to re-size the ad creative dynamically to match the mobile phone’s screen dimensions and capabilities. In cases where the publisher or ad-serving solution requires only one banner image, the MMA recommends using the X-Large Mobile Web Banner ad unit specifications as the default re-sizeable banner. It’s important that the creative takes into account both the impact of image re-sizing (i.e. certain amount of degradation of image quality) and that the automatic resizing may not work well with animated banners.
    • Animated banner images: When using animated Mobile Web Banner Ads, please note:
      • Mobile phones that don’t support image animation tend to render only the first image frame. For this reason, the MMA recommends that the first image frame should contain the entire advertising message, instead of leaving important information for subsequent frames.
      • To date, automatic resizing of animated images does not always deliver ideal results. Therefore, the MMA does not recommend applying automatic resizing with animated image banners. The MMA is studying this issue in order to find a workable recommendation.
      • There are several possible animation formats, including animated GIF, SVG, Flash, Silverlight and interlaced JPEG. Animated GIF currently is the most widely supported on mobile phones. The MMA is studying options for improvements that will be incorporated into future guidelines.

More on Text Messaging (SMS), Multimedia Messaging (MMS), Mobile Video and TV in the next issue of Asian e-Marketing.