The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), along with other stakeholders, recently released the “Mobile Web Advertisement Measurement Guidelines” (the Guidelines), rules for determining the performance and effectiveness of mobile marketing campaigns. The Guidelines apply specifically to ads designed to be served in a mobile web environment (such as from a mobile version of a website), as opposed to ads served by other means (such as via SMS or mobile applications).

Companies who generate advertisements for view on mobile devices should be aware of these new Guidelines, paying special attention to the Guidelines’ suggestions on enhancing ad impression tracking techniques. While compliance with the Guidelines is strictly optional, members of the mobile ad-buying community, including the 4A’s, may use the Guidelines as a measure of the quality of ad-serving applications and as a standard for certifying those advertisers who seek to be certified as an additional badge of validation. As the technology underlying the transfer of advertising content to mobile devices continues to evolve, advertisers should reference the Guidelines as a roadmap for accurately tracking the number of ad impressions being sent to mobile devices. By being certified under the Guidelines, companies can position themselves as highly-valued in the mobile advertising space.

For those interested in compliance, the main focus of the Guidelines is tracking and reporting of so-called ad impressions. An ad impression is essentially the term used to apply to the delivery of an advertisement to a user. This number is important as it helps advertisers to better understand the effectiveness of their advertising and their advertising methods. In quantifying ad impressions, the Guidelines caution that the client (device) side measurement is the only acceptable means for measuring ad impressions and that there should be “reasonable assurance” that the ad actually appears on the mobile device before it is counted. For example, if a user clicks on an advertisement but immediately clicks away, the ad impression should not be counted if the user’s browser did not begin the process of requesting the delivery of pixel ad content onto the device. Conversely, if the user clicks on the mobile advertisement and the advertiser’s site begins to resolve, an ad impression has occurred and should be counted. Since there is recognition of successful delivery to the user’s device in client side measurement, this method is the most accurate and is at the heart of the measurement procedures outlined in the Guidelines. Alternatively, the Guidelines do not recommend counting full display of the ads as there is not currently a method to accurately count this. The Guidelines also include a sample methodology to help guide ad producers in measuring ad impressions.

Another major focus of the Guidelines is on techniques for enhancing the accuracy of ad impression tracking, including cache busting, filtration, display filtering, and utilizing rich media ad impressions. Cache busting, a method for resetting a device’s cache, should be used by ad serving organizations and communicated to device users to ensure ad impressions served from a device’s cache do not go unreported. The Guidelines recommend HTTP or WAP Header Controls or random number assignment techniques to properly bust caches. Filtration of non-human behavior and pattern analysis is also essential to ensure accurate ad impression reporting. Additionally, ad serving organizations should actively exclude robots and company-internal traffic from rolling up into ad impression calculations, and use pattern analysis to proactively identify new types of robot-suspected activity by keying on suspicious activity that deviates from normal site visits.

In any event, the Guidelines are sure to be a useful tool for those companies interested in better tracking and analyzing the effectiveness of their advertisements. Arent Fox is continuing to monitor developments in mobile technology and advertising. For more information, please contact the listed attorneys.