Last week, the Interactive Advertising Bureau released an update to their Mobile Rich Media Ad Interface Definitions (MRAID) to include metrics that the standards were previously lacking. The new update, the third release of its kind, focuses on improving the user experience for consumers as well as ad designers and provides deeper insights into factors important to mobile advertisers today, such as viewability, audibility, standardization of the close button, and guidance on pre-fetched ads.

Announced on their blog, the IAB stated that since 2011, the Mobile Rich Media Ad Interface Definitions (MRAID) specification has provided in-app advertising the means to create compelling rich media ad experiences at scale. However until now, the IAB did not include standards on viewability for in-app advertisements.

Although not a “revolutionary specification” according to developers of the new IAB updates in a recent AdAge article, the updates provide new metrics on features requested by marketers in the industry2. These metrics can help marketers determine if consumers let the app access their location, provide insights into whether volume on a video ad is high enough for users to hear, or identify whether a conversion was made, amongst other new specifications. Using these metrics, marketers have the ability to personalize ads based on consumer behaviors.

The MRAID 3.0 features include

  • Viewability support to measure viewability and tailor its display for the best user experience
  • Audibility measurement to understand user context and use audio in a non-disruptive manner
  • Standardization of the close button for expanded ads and interstitials
  • Graceful exit, ads can now inform the host ad container if they encounter an error
  • Environmental rendering, ads can now access basic environment information to prepare the creative in advance of rendering
  • Guidance for pre-fetched ads, ensures that an ad is presented to a user only when it is determined that it has its assets loaded and ready to display
  • The full list of features can be found on the IAB website, here

In-app Viewability for Brand Marketers

Viewability has been a hot topic in digital advertising and the updates seem to be a step in the right direction for transparency in mobile advertising; but what do the updates really mean and how can advertisers be sure their apps live up to the standards outlined by the IAB?

Brands who do not currently have an app or are not developing their own app, the updates are a matter of communicating with your agency or creative teams. The new guidelines recommend that companies serving in-app ads provide standard info to advertisers on whether consumers let the app access their devices’ locations or not. Ebiquity’s Head of Digital – North America, Geoff Greenblatt, advises “for brands investing in paid media inventory across apps, it is important to understand what creative tech functionalities are available to you with each in-app vendor, and to work with your creative agency on implementations that make the most sense.”

The technical considerations

For brands who have already or will be developing an app, the technical considerations are equally as important. To start, we need to define exactly what MRAID is – MRAID (and its companion for video, VSAID) is the common API set by the IAB for mobile rich media ads to communicate with mobile apps. It allows developers creating ads with HTML5 and JavaScript to use universal commands to tell apps how the rich media ads should perform so that, for example, video ads can run in native app players, and ads can perform actions like expand, resize and display image galleries. In the simplest of terms, it is code.

When it comes to developing an app that fits within the IAB’s guidelines, mobile practice lead at Stratigent, Jordan Kanter, has extensive experience building mobile environments for leading brands and recommends, “app developers will have to ensure they allow the mraid3 code to run successfully, and respond correctly to the javascript events from the SDK with the relevant operating system calls – make sure to consult with your app developers, who need to participate in order to track viewability successfully.”

It should be noted that although the new features allow for the ability to gather data across app users to create a more enjoyable and effective experience, it is important to understand the limitations of the app as well as the expectations of the user. Although MRAID3 provides insights into whether volume on a video ad is high enough for users to hear, automatically firing an event that turns the app volume up if a user has it too low would work against a positive user experience. The standards aren’t meant to be intrusive and MRAID does not force providing the information if the application doesn’t want to share its users’ information.

At the end of the day, the IAB’s updated standards give advertisers and brand marketers a way to utilize the available data from their app environment or at the very least, provide guidance on what to request from developers or creative app agencies. As the advertising industry continues to advance, MRAID 3.0 is an enabling standard for in-app advertising and is ready to use so brand marketers and advertisers can start the conversation, and the evolving of their app advertising, now