WAA Releases Ad Standards for WAP, SMS and PDAs

Executives from the Wireless Advertising Association took the wraps off their long-awaited standards for mobile Internet devices on Tuesday, designed to help stabilize the fledgling medium and make it more attractive to advertisers and agencies.

Just as the Interactive Advertising Bureau does for online media, the WAA — the industry’s largest wireless advertising trade association — is working to promote standards across the industry that it says will help develop the market for wireless ads. The thinking is that advertisers and agencies will find it easier to create, buy and analyze media across different wireless platforms and publishers once standards are established — so that a text ad buy on one wireless site means the same thing as on another.

“This is a complex medium, with wide variations in device technology, screen sizes, and publisher needs,” said Tom Bair, who chairs the association’s ad standards committee. “Standards will make it dramatically easier for advertisers, ad agencies, third-party servers/networks, and publishers to coordinate on a wireless campaign.”

Earlier this year, the WAA announced standards for SMS messages over GSM networks — a “Full Message” consisting of the entire 160-long character string available in a text message, and a smaller “Sponsorship” ad of 34 characters, or about two lines of text on most phones.

On Tuesday, WAA leadership proposed two non-GSM networks ad types — a “Sponsorship” ad similar to the GSM model, and a “Full Message” of up to 100 characters in length.

For WAP ads, the WAA unveiled “Text,” “Graphic” and “Graphic-Plus-Text” ad units. WAP interstitial standards specify that the Text, Graphic and Graphic-Plus-Text ads can also be run as interstitials, which should disappear in five seconds, and give users the option to skip.

For PDAs, the standards call for two-line ads, and graphics ads are sized differently according to the device on which they will appear.

Ad Units for GSM
Sponsorship 34
characters (roughly two lines of text)
Ad Units for Non-GSM
Sponsorship 34
characters (roughly two lines of text)
WAP Ad Units
Text 15
characters (1 line, fixed)
characters (2 lines, fixed)
characters (1 line of Marquee/Times Square text)
Graphic 80 by 8 pixels
80 by 15 pixels
80 by 20 pixels
80 by 31 pixels
Graphic-Plus-Text 80 by 8 pixels plus one line of text
80 by 15 pixels plus one line of text
80 by 15 pixels plus two lines of text
80 by 20 pixels plus one (or two) lines of text
Interstitials Same
as Text, Graphic and Graphic-Plus-Text formats, with five-second limit and
ability for users to skip.
PDA Ad Units
– PalmOS
150 by 24
pixels (two lines of text)
215 by 34
pixels (two lines of text)
– PocketPC
150 by 32
pixels (two lines of text)
215 by 46
pixels (two lines of text)

The WAA said its PDA standards team, led by AvantGo’s director of mobile Internet sales, James Ryan, would consider several additional standards already in use by several publishers. Those tentative standards include one and three lines of text on both devices.

The proposed standards will be reviewed by the full membership for thirty days before being adopted throughout the industry, though WAA chairman Robert O’Hare said he’s optimistic that the group will adopt the specs wholeheartedly.

“The Ad Standards Committee … did a tremendous and thorough job,” said O’Hare, who is director of business development of Motorola. “We anticipate that their work will be embraced by the industry and bring this medium into the advertising mainstream.”

That’s not the only reason behind the WAA’s comprehensive set of proposed standards. Several industry players have criticized groups like the IAB for responding slowly to problems in the Web advertising market — for instance, allowing five years to lapse between the introduction of the banner ad and the addition of newer, more advertiser-friendly units this year.

And to an extent, those are the problems that the WAA is seeking to avoid — by looking to create inventory to appeal to advertisers before the medium takes off, and by promising to keep an eye on advertisers’ and publishers’ needs as time goes on.

“These new standards are the latest in a series of initiatives the WAA has undertaken to build a strong foundation for this emergent marketing channel,” said WAA vice chairman Don Albert, who is also senior vice president of marketing at fusionOne. “These standards help position the industry for strong, and responsible, growth.”

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