So far a lot of what I’ve been using lately in terms of mobile advertising has been banners. Images. Simple to deal with, but probably not long-term a fantastic way to go. Especially for mobile, where the ads are supposed to be highly relevant and context aware. More and more advertisers are looking at how to tailor their ads to the user, or to the current location. Not a crazy idea apparently, as there was just an update to the Mobile Rich Media Ad Interface Definitions (MRAID) released a few weeks ago. Seems like a good time to figure out how to use this stuff.
However, after some digging around I found mostly stuff like this completely neglected Quora question. There’s an online MRAID tester that a few folks from Crisp put together. An awesome idea, but I really needed to see the stuff on devices. (Plus, I had trouble getting the MRAID webtester to work with any of the MRAID samples I had, so I must be doing something wrong still)
Fortunately however, the MoPub SDK has MRAID support. And it’s open source, so I figured there had to be a way to trick it into showing what I wanted instead of fetching stuff from the exchange. And as it turns out, there is. For the MRAID stuff almost trivial I would say, just injecting a few extra headers to make the SDK happy (actually fetching and delivering the ad isn’t covered by the MRAID spec). I’m sure it’s going to be almost nearly unusable by anyone except me at this point without some real hackery, but I decided to push the script up to GitHub with some instructions just in case.
Right now using it means you have to have a working dev environment for iOS and/or Android. And you have to go in and hack that script to change the creative you want to test with. And I’m not inserting all the headers correctly so that stuff like impression recording and click event reporting work correctly. Which is a pain, but in my opinion less of a pain than testing by actually flighting an ad and then figuring out if it works where you want it to. And now I can play around with expandable banners and all that jazz, so I’m happy at least. Just need to figure out how to get this stuff properly supported on our platform.
If you need to test MRAID creatives – I’ve open sourced this under the same permissive BSD license that MoPub has their stuff under, so feel free to do nearly whatever you want with it. It is in pretty pre-alpha shape though. So I don’t assure it will work, it might take some work to just get it functioning. And of course it comes with no assurances. It might crash your server, it might brick your phone, it might slap your mama and stomp into the kitchen to start smashing plates. Might. It hasn’t done any of those things for me.
I’m thinking there’s probably some nice way to package this stuff up. Like add the hostname and path to pull the creatives from as a setting in the iOS and Android versions, and then publishing it as a free app. Then anyone wanting to test MRAID doesn’t have to have dev environments setup. Then put the server side stuff together into a form easy to deploy onto a hosting service, with some nice forms for setting up the different creative styles and a way to spit out ad tags once you’re happy.
Mostly though, I’m wondering why this stuff isn’t already out there? So if I’m completely missing some kind of simple solution or testing tool, let me know.
But assuming I’m not there’s the open question of how to run these kinds of tests using the other non-opensource mobile ad SDKs. Seems like that might be something of an issue, but turns out my willingness to resort to DNS hackery might actually be paying off there. That’s a topic for another post.