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MMA Releases Best Practices for Mobile Ads

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CHICAGO In an effort to establish standards for self-regulation, the Mobile Marketing Association -- representing more than 600 companies including wireless phone network carriers, direct marketers, digital shops and advertisers -- this week published its second set of guidelines.

The 10-page book recommends best practices for technical applications like banner width, aspect ratios, file sizes and design guides. The MMA's first set of guidelines, available since December, addressed advertiser/consumer relationship issues such as how consumers should be able to opt out of receiving ads and the criteria for when an advertiser should pay for delivery of content to the consumer.

"The creation of ad guidelines by the MMA ensures that the industry is taking a proactive approach to keep subscriber experience, content integrity and simplified execution as the driving forces behind all mobile advertising programs," said Laura Marriott, president of the Denver-based association.

With screens getting bigger and more capabilities like GPS being added to cell phones, mobile advertising looks like the next frontier of marketing possibilities.

"The problem here is you have an army of people developing mobile ad applications ready to send out to the world and on the other side is the user who says I don't want this stuff," said Jeff Kagan, an independent telecom analyst. "[Marketers] have to have a way for the customer to choose if they want the messages or not."

Forrester Research, Cambridge, Mass., projected that mobile marketing spending in the U.S. will soar from $270 million last year to $2.8 billion by 2012. Yet only 10 percent of data users said they were willing to accept mobile ads, according to a recent Nielsen Mobile survey. Consumers resist the notion of having their private cell phone number inundated with spam from advertisers.

By drafting industry standards, the MMA is trying to prevent mobile marketing from attracting the same angst the consumers already have for unsolicited faxes, spam e-mail and junk mail.

"I don't think anybody in the equation is interested in having the federal government show up and impose their own regulations," said Dale Harrod, director of operations for Vayan Marketing Group, a direct marketing services company based in Boca Raton, Fla. "So you're seeing the industry establish these standards so the market itself does come out of the gate on a very positive note."

Harrod said among the advantages of having standards regarding style and technical details is that marketers can format their content so the consumer has the best experience interacting with it. The guidelines also could be a steppingstone for standardizing wireless networks, allowing mobile marketers to use the same format to send messages to cell phone customers across different networks.