1078_1Text Messaging (SMS)

Short Message Service (SMS) is a communications service that allows the exchange of short text messages, limited to160 characters, between mobile phones.

It is also referred to as "text messaging" or "texting." SMS messages can be sent and received between virtually all operator networks. Virtually every mobile phone in the world supports SMS, creating a ubiquitous market for SMS-based advertising campaigns. SMS supports messages sent from one user to another, as well as messages sent from a machine, such as a PC, application or server, to a user.


1.SMS Advertising Unit Definitions

The recommended ad units for SMS are as follows:

  • Initial SMS Ad (Appended) is a universal text ad unit of variable length (often between 20-60 characters) appended to the content (or body) portion of the message containing the primary, non-advertising content of the message. This ad unit uses the remaining space after the content portion of the message, and can be made available for advertiser usage by the publisher. As a principle, focus should remain on the content portion which should not be compromised by the ad unit.
  • Complete SMS Ad (Full Message) is a universal text ad unit with up to 160 characters available for advertiser usage. There is no primary, non-advertising content in the message and this ad unit is typically delivered as a reply to an Initial SMS Ad or "Text (keyword) to (short code)" call-to-action. These ads may be delivered as part of an ongoing opt-in mobile advertising campaign.


2.Initial SMS Ad Specifications

Specification Components

a) Format SMS is a text-only medium. It does not support any rich media; however some mobile phones with click-to-call or click-to-web capability will display colored links and underlining of URLs and phone numbers. The font size is entirely controlled by the mobile phone and is not under control of advertiser or publisher. Therefore the message renders differently on different mobile phones.

b) Length The length of the ad is the subject to the available space after the content. Consult your publisher for the maximum allowable length. Current practice is typically ads under 20-60 characters, with ads up to 80 characters. Advertisers should be aware that shorter copy allows for increased publishing inventory availability.

When using double-byte characters (otherwise known as 16-bit) to send an SMS, the limit is 70 characters. 16-bit characters are associated with sending a Unicode text message, which is required to convey some of the special characters used in non-Latin alphabets, such as Chinese, Japanese or Korean.

c) Location The ad copy will be inserted only at the end of the content portion of the SMS. In cases where the sender uses a personal SMS signature, the ad should be inserted after the signature.


3.Complete SMS Ad (Full Message) Specifications

Specification Components

a) Format:   See Short SMS Ad format
b) Length: A length of up to 160 Latin characters
c) Location: The Complete SMS Ad will be the entire SMS message.


4.SMS Advertising Insertion and Delivery

a) SMS Ad Indicators: The publisher or advertising insertion partner is responsible for including an ad indicator in Initial (Appended) SMS Ads. There should be a clear separation between the text message content and the ad. A carriage return or line break is recommended, however not all carriers support line breaks, so an ad indicator should also precede the ad copy. Acceptable ad indicators are:
• "*" (single asterisk)
• "**" (double-asterisk)
• "AD:" (or similar local language abbreviation)
• "-" (dash)
Note that a carriage return may count as two characters.

b) SMS Ad Functionality


  • Delivery of SMS Ad messages should be consistent with the MMA Global Code of Conduct.
  • SMS Ad messages should be delivered per the watershed hours requirements of your local market.


Response (return SMS)

  • If a user requests additional information be delivered to them via SMS, advertisers should respond to that request within 12 hours or the request (opt-in) for that particular message will be deemed expired.
  • Responses to user requests may be delivered by an alternate common short code or phone number, but the relationship to the original request should be clearly identifiable by the user. (For information about short codes, see the MMA Common Short Code Primer, available at http://www.mmaglobal.com/shortcodeprimer.pdf)



  • Phone numbers should be local or domestic to the country that the ads are targeting.
  • Phone numbers should be functional. Ensure that the numbers are in service before the campaign launches.
  • Premium destination numbers that would result in a charge that exceeds standard rates to the end user should not be used unless the terms are fully disclosed in the ad.
  • Emergency numbers (e.g., 911 in the United States and Canada, or 112 in parts of Europe), or any unrelated service numbers, are not allowed in SMS ad units.


Link to Mobile Web site

  • Landing page should be viewable in Mobile Web browsers.
  • Content of the linked Mobile Web site should be related to the advertisement.
  • The landing page should be working properly.
  • Please see Section 2.3 of this document for best practices on mobile web content.


5. Creative Design Principles

The primary design goal should be that the SMS Advertising unit is clearly identifiable as an advertisement and is easily understood by the receiver of the message. The following design principles are suggestions.

a) General Design Principles for SMS Ads

Use abbreviations and "text speak" (e.g., LOL) with caution and avoid grammatical errors or misunderstandings.
Use punctuation when required for clarity or emphasis.
Note that a carriage return may count as two characters.
Conduct testing to ensure that the publishing network recognizes, and mobile phones properly render, any non-Latin or accented letters prior to use.
Note that URLs contained in the text may allow click through to Mobile Web pages, depending on handset capability, and may appear underlined or in color.

b) Design Principles for Initial SMS (Appended) Ads

If a URL is included in an appended ad, the URL should be as short as possible. A URL under 20- characters is recommended.
To optimize the potential for frequency of delivery, the advertiser may develop several versions of ads with varying lengths, maximizing the ads' availability for insertion based on the length of the content portion of the message. For example, "Nike" or "Just do it - Nike."

c) Design Principles for Complete SMS (Full Message) Ads

The Complete SMS Ad unit can be used for any type of promotional message or call to action.
The advertiser should be clearly identified in the ad copy.
Creative may contain a URL. Use of short URLs is recommended to use reduce character count and maximize clarity and use of advertising space.
The title or header of the message should reflect the consumer query or subscription that resulted in delivery of the full ad message copy. For example, if the consumer replied "HOME" to get more info on real estate, the resulting ad should have "HOME" in the first line. If the resulting ad is unfamiliar, the recipient may dismiss it as "Spam".


Multimedia Messaging (MMS)

Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) is a rich media messaging service that allows mobile users to send and receive messages that can include graphics, photos, audio, video and text. As such, it provides marketers with increased ad effectiveness over SMS. Another benefit is that unlike the Mobile Web, this media resides on the user's mobile phone, so a data connection isn't required to access the ad content once the message has been received. It should be noted that unlike SMS, MMS is not yet universally supported by all operator networks and all mobile phones; however the advertising opportunity using MMS is significant.

These guidelines seek to ensure a clear distinction of MMS Advertising units from content to avoid perception of MMS Advertising as unsolicited communication and ensure maximum ad campaign effectiveness. The MMS guidelines consist of a set of ad unit dimensions, file formats and maximum file sizes, as well as additional considerations for advertisers and publishers.


1. MMS Advertising Unit Definitions

The recommended ad units for MMS are as follows:

  • MMS Short Text Ad is a supplementary text ad unit appended to the content (or body) portion of an MMS slide containing the primary, non-advertising content of the MMS slide. A MMS Short Text Ad can contain links that are clickable by the end user. As a principle, focus should remain on the content portion of the MMS slide which should not be compromised by the ad unit.
  • MMS Long Text Ad is a supplementary text ad unit filling all of an MMS slide, whereby the text can contain a link that is clickable by the end user.
  • MMS Banner Ad is a supplementary color graphics ad unit displayed at the top or bottom of an MMS slide. The supplementary MMS 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. However, in some cases, particularly in Europe, supplementary animated MMS Banner Ads are available for use in campaigns where it is imperative to convey a rich media experience. An MMS Banner Ad can be clickable by the end user, in which case a separate text link can be considered. The MMS Banner Ad unit specification is similar to the Mobile Web Banner Ad specification in terms of aspect ratio and dimension.
  • MMS Rectangle Ad is a universal color graphics plus optional text ad unit filling all of an MMS slide, whereby the text can contain a link. The universal MMS Rectangle 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. However, in some cases, particularly in Europe, supplemental animated MMS Rectangle Ads are available for use in campaigns where it is imperative to convey a rich media experience. An MMS Rectangle Ad can be clickable by the end user, in which case a separate text link below the graphics is recommended. An MMS Rectangle Ad can be placed before the original content (pre-roll), within (mid-roll) or after (post-roll) of the MMS, on a separate slide. Mixing an MMS Rectangle Ad with other content (except audio) on one slide is not recommended.
  • MMS Audio Ad is a supplementary audio clip that is played while an MMS Rectangle Ad or an MMS Full Ad is displayed.
  • MMS Video Ad is a supplementary video ad unit and usually gets delivered as part of a MMS Full Ad.
  • MMS Full Ad is a supplementary ad unit which only contains advertising content. The MMS Full Ad is a complete MMS composed of elements of MMS Short Text Ads, MMS Long Text Ads, MMS Banner Ads, MMS Rectangle Ads, MMS Audio Ads and MMS Video Ads and distributed over one or multiple slides. There is no primary, non-advertising content in the MMS Full Ad and this ad unit is typically delivered in response to an ad request or based on some form of valid consent (opt-in) provided by the recipient.


2. MMS Advertising Unit Specifications

Specification Components

The following ad unit specifications provide the framework for producing MMS ad creative material suitable across a broad range of mobile phones with a compelling and engaging user experience.

a) Media Formats for MMS ad units are as follows:

  • JPG or GIF as universal formats for still images.
  • GIF for animated images.
  • AMR-NB (on GSM networks) and QCELP (on CDMA networks) are prevailing audio formats.
  • AAC+, AAC, MP3, WAV (PCM encoded) become increasingly available on mobile phones.
  • 3GP and 3G2 they are prevailing video formats. Recommended audio quality: @ 16bit 44 KHz Stereo; Recommended video quality: QVGA @250kbps, 20-30 frames per second.

b) Aspect Ratio

Mobile phones vary substantially in their screen display designs: landscape, square or portrait. Unlike in the Mobile Web, MMS creators have no visibility of the individual target mobile phone and its screen characteristics at the time of MMS composing.1
As a consequence, and to keep the need for vertical scrolling of ad messages to a minimum, the MMA recommends using any landscape aspect ratio for MMS Rectangle Ad images. This typically includes 16:9 and 4:3 ratios. Also, a 1:1 (square) ratio can produce acceptable results. Such aspect ratios usually allow for ad text to be visible together with the ad image on screens. Portrait aspect ratios are not recommended. For the MMS Banner Ad, aspect ratios apply as defined for the Mobile Web Banner Ad units in Section 2.2 (6:1 and 4:1).
For MMS Video Ads, the recommended aspect ratios are the following:

  • 16:9 (HD)
  • 4:3 (QVGA)
  • 11:9 (QCIF) 

c) Dimensions

For all graphical MMS Ad elements, regardless of their aspect ratio, widths are recommended as defined for the Mobile Web Banner Ad units in Section 2.2, i.e.

  • X-Large MMS Image (width 300 pixels)
  • Large MMS Image (width 216 pixels)
  • Medium MMS Image (width 168 pixels)
  • Small MMS Image (width 120 pixels)
  • Respective heights being according to the aspect ratio selected.

 The Large MMS Image width (216 pixels) is the universal dimension recommended for use in MMS Ad campaigns where only one dimension is used. This width has proven to produce satisfactory user experience across today's mobile phones in mature mobile markets.

For all MMS Video Ad elements, the following are the most common examples of frequently used dimensions:

  • Large MMS Video (320 x 240 pixels)
  • Medium MMS Video (176 x 144 pixels)
  • Small MMS Video (128 x 96 pixels)

d) File Size
The maximum MMS message file size available for advertisements depends on the following factors:

  • Mobile phones are currently capable of receiving MMS messages between a maximum of 100 KB to 600 KB sizes.
  • Mobile network configurations apply irrespective of the mobile phone capability. Currently most networks support a maximum of 300 KB. However, some networks already increase this limit to 600 KB.

 In order to reach a broad audience, the MMA recommends that the complete MMS file size does not exceed 300 KB. Maximum MMS file size and maximum ad file sizes are inclusive of all applicable elements (e.g., graphics, text and audio3).

  • For ads inserted to other content, the MMS ad file size should not exceed 100 KB. This limit allows 200 KB or more for the original content. This file size allows for good quality MMS Rectangle Ad images, even for many animated images.
  • For the MMS Full Ad unit, a maximum file size of 300 KB is recommended.


3. MMS Advertising Creative Design Principles

a) Sender identification
The sender of the MMS Full Ad message should be clearly identifiable by the message recipient. The "from" and "subject" field as well as the first message slide should reflect the consumer request or opt in context that resulted in delivery of the full ad. The message subject field alone is not sufficient for carrying this information because it is not shown on many mobile phones.4
For example, if the consumer has opted in to receiving advertisements from brand XYZ, the full ad messages delivered should have "XYZ" not only in the "from" and "subject" field but also in the first element (text or graphic) of the first slide. Local market guidelines or regulation might be in place requesting sender identification placement.

b) Ad Indicators
Advertisers should consult their publisher and local markets to determine requirements for ad indicators. Indicators could be used with both text and graphical ads:

  • Text ad indicators, where text is used to indicate the text is an ad. An example is the use of "Ad:" preceding the ad text. See also Section 3.4.1 on SMS ad indicators for more guidance.
  • Graphical ad indicators, where a part of the creative is used to display the ad indicator and thus make it clear that the graphic is an ad rather than content. The indicator typically is located on the side or the corner of the creative and may use text (e.g., "AD" in English speaking markets) or an icon to indicate that the image is an ad. The ad indicator is part of the graphical and text ad elements and MMA recommends that when advertisers choose to use an ad indicator, it should be included with the creative material. Conventions for ad indicators vary by market and publisher.


4. MMS Advertising Insertion and Delivery

a) Impact of Transcoding and Rendering of media on mobile phones
MMS Message delivery includes two steps, transcoding and rendering; both which potentially impact the quality of the message, its formats, and the resolution of media elements. Many mobile operators support transcoding, also known as media adaptation. Transcoding, which automatically adapts content during message delivery, is done according to the receiving mobile phone capabilities (e.g. screen resolution, maximum message file size, supported media formats) to avoid negative user experience. While transcoding ensures that advertisements (along with possible other content) are consistently presented on all mobile phones, it can have a negative impact on the audio and visual elements if applied extensively. The ad unit specifications as defined in chapter 4.1 seek to reduce the need for transcoding, and retain the quality of the ad creatives.
Transcoding and rendering have advantages that are relevant for the purpose of MMS advertising:

  • To provide a good experience for users on almost all MMS-capable mobile phones.
  • To allow creative material to be provided in one version only.

However, some caution is recommended:

  • Image creative should be chosen that properly resizes down to lower resolutions. For example, tiny text and graphical details should be avoided.
    Extensive media adaptation (from very large graphics down to very small ones) may render some creative material into poor quality for low-resolution mobile phone screens. This can happen to graphics containing text, details, thin lines or color palettes with texture.
    Creative producers are recommended to contact MMS service providers and/or network operators for more details. In case transcoding is not available on a network, only the standard audio formats (AMRNB on GSM networks and QCELP on CDMA networks) are recommended in MMS advertising.

The process of MMS delivery can influence the content of MMS, therefore; testing the impact of resizing on quality and legibility of the creative material is recommended. The MMA further recommends that MMS ad delivery be tested on real phones prior to any campaign execution.


b) Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language (SMIL)
For MMS messages, SMIL defines the order of images and text on a slide, the time a slide is displayed, and other parameters. Media creators should consider the following SMIL parameters:

  • Region – defines the order of text and graphics on MMS slides. It determines whether all slides of an MMS will start with graphics followed by text or vice versa. Without this parameter it is up to the MMS client to set the order of image and text on one slide, which may lead to an unfavorable display representation.
  • Height – determines the percentage of display space reserved for text and graphics respectively; this enables forcing the display of text below a picture in the visible area of the mobile phone display.
  • Duration – controls the duration of display for each individual slide of the MMS. This parameter is of importance to synchronize the duration of slide display and length of audio play measured in seconds. If not properly set, the slide show may progress to the next slide before the audio (or video) has finished playing.

c) Other Considerations

  • International Roaming

Inserting ads into MMS messages sent to users who are roaming abroad can generate additional costs for those users because they typically pay roaming fees for MMS data usage. The industry is still developing best practices for this situation. Some MMS service providers/operators provide the ability to block ad injection and sending ad MMS messages to roaming users, thus ensuring a good customer experience. If possible, this option should be used. 

  • Response timing (return MMS)

If a user requests advertising information to be delivered to him via MMS, this request should be respond to within 12 hours or the request (opt-in) for that particular message will be deemed expired.

  • MMS Video Ads
  • Advertisers should consider the following when developing MMS Video Ads:
  • Avoid using fast-moving videos
  • Avoid rapid scene changes (many scene changes in a short period)
  • Avoid using small letters for advertising messages