Thanks to Russell for pointing out that a new set of MMA guidelines is up for review. Apparently I’m supposed to post feedback in their public forums, but I’m getting a bit tired of having to follow discussions in other places. So I’m posting my feedback in my public forum, just like they posted their recommendation on their site. Just seems proper.
As soon as I read Russell’s post I thought “Yay! Finally some structure around an accepted practice for audience measurement on the mobile web!” Cause any effort to democratize serving ads in a medium and put everyone on equal footing just needs to set down conditions of input (media styles and formats, standardize terms and minimum specification of a buy) and expected output (what should be reported and how should it be measured?) The guidelines as they stand make a point of dealing with the media formats and sizes, not bad, I have no real comments there. However, the mobile web part says nothing at all about audience measurement. Which is kind of conspicuous cause the messaging and downloaded app sections do talk about metrics and reporting.
It’s almost like it was intentionally left out, hoping no one would notice the smoking crater? I’m looking for something along the lines of the IAB Campaign Measurement guidelines. Look at the detail in there: delivery mechanisms and which inclusion tags count as which style and dealing with caching. And most important, it doesn’t matter if it’s right or wrong in every case, just that it’s consistent. Why is there information about handset screen sizes in China, and no mention of how to measure reach on the mobile web? Bad form.
Okay, I know I said the report included sections on application download and messaging audience measurement. Technically that’s true, in that their presence in the report calls into attention their absence for the mobile web section. But these are the counting and reporting “guidelines” for mobile messaging:
Operators could use counting tools that use digital fingerprinting or similar technologies to track message
distribution among users in the network. This could enable the service provider to track the dissemination
routes, to identify social leaders, and to reward users for forwarding messages. However, all these
capabilities must comply with existing national level regulatory and legal frameworks covering privacy and
the use of personal data. In addition end users concerns and expectations will always need to be
carefully managed. Taking all steps necessary to ensure end customers fully understand any proposal to
user their data, together with providing a clear choice to opt in or out of this type of service is essential for
its long term success.
Umm. I’m not sure “The carriers might do something to help count users. And oh yea, be sure not to break the law” really counts as a guideline. That’s not helpful at all, to anyone.
Then there’s the section on mobile video, which says pretty much “we’ve got no guidelines, but here’s some info about mobile video.” What the hell? Are these guidelines for usage? Or marketing material? If you don’t have guidelines for mobile video don’t include a section on mobile video in your guidelines. It’s reminiscent of padding out a book report. Was there a minimum word count for this assignment? I actually scrolled back to the top of the document and checked the title of the report again, thinking that maybe this was really just an informational release. The mobile marketing strategic overview and not a set of guidelines. But that’s what the report says, “MMA Global Mobile Advertising Guidelines”.
So lets create a specification for them so we don’t have to go through the process again. Audience numbers must be counted using the MSISDN if available and fall back on cookie based counting in all other cases. MSISDN presence is dictated by the presence of one of the following headers in a request from a mobile terminal:
It’s relatively easy to pick out which headers to use if folks publish some info about the traffic they’re getting. Cookies must be delivered with the domain of the central advertising network if appropriate, which means image based recording even for text adverts. 1×1 gif, which admittedly carriers could block.
That’s it, that’s a spec, it’s the kind of thing I would expect the MMA to put in their “guidelines”. Furthermore, given their position as the premier global organization pulling membership from carriers, software providers, and manufacturers I would expect them to:
- quantify in what percentage of cases the guidelines are expected to yield valid numbers given global averages
- work to improve the guidelines to decrease the error rate over time
- provide recommendations and guidelines to carriers, software providers, and device manufacturers to decrease the error rate going forward
If something like that happened we might have something that could “stimulate the growth of mobile marketing and its associated technologies.” As it stands now however, I don’t really see the point. It clarifies a few points if you already have an advertising business up and running. But say you’re an independent site owner looking to sell your own inventory directly, or an open source advertising platform looking to add mobile adverting to the mix of features your package provides. Read through the guidelines with that perspective in mind and it’s obvious it doesn’t provide any of the necessary clarity at all.