The Interactive Advertising Bureau has decided the ad market for mobile applications is too new for standards.
The decision basically bets that advertisers will put up with the continued fragmentation of ad sizes and requirements in return for the ability to experiment in a still nascent medium.
"Any effort to promote simplification of ad formats must make it easier or cheaper to produce creative for the medium, without stifling creativity of those designing content or advertising for that medium," the IAB wrote in a report released today. "At this stage, the in-app ad landscape is too new and dynamic to be ready for creative standards."
The IAB based its decision to take a pass on standardization on a marketplace study that gathered feedback from app platforms and publishers. It found a fractured market that is inching in the direction of consistency.
Standard display sizes are emerging. For example, the 300-by-50 pixel display ad is accepted at a majority of the 14 publishers surveyed. There are also many publishers offering wider ads that display better on iPhone screens.
Yet other areas are more unsettled. Expandable formats vary, the IAB noted. File weight limits differ wildly from publisher to publisher, ranging from 5 KB to 15 KB in the IAB survey. Newer opportunities like the iPad increase the variables. The IAB found a mix of standard sizes from the Web with common mobile sizes -- and even a couple publishers offering supersize ads that take advantage of the Apple tablet's larger screen.
The process becomes even more complex when taking into account various devices, and the IAB found one publisher offering formats targeted to specific BlackBerry models.
The IAB traditionally has served as the Internet industry's clearinghouse for standards and guidelines. It's a role that could come into question as digital advertising moves from the desktop into wireless, TV and other areas. The mobile industry, for instance, already has standards set by the Mobile Marketing Association. The MMA said it modeled the guidelines on what the IAB devised for Web display advertising. (The MMA endorsed four graphical sizes and one text unit at the 6:1 and 4:1 aspect ratios.)
An IAB rep said the two organizations would work together and "were we to issue official guidelines around formats, we would involve them in every step of the process."
For now, the IAB is encouraging basic best practices, including building mobile-specific landing pages for campaigns, keeping creative file sizes low, and building specifically for different devices. The final best practice should ensure the mobile ad market remain fractured for some time to come.