What is MRAID and How it Works for In-App Rich Media Mobile Advertising

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Blog post updated on Jan 27, 2016.

Over the years, mobile native apps usage has been increasing while mobile web surfing declines.

Mobile apps now accounts for 86% of media time on mobile.*

But to serve rich media banner ads across a multitude of apps from different ad publishers, you’ll need to create a lot of rich media banners (of the same campaign) to fit the various requirements of apps: different platforms and the codes used to build those apps. Imagine the enormous costs and development time just to run a campaign.

Fortunately, we have MRAID.

In this article, I will attempt to explain how MRAID makes in-app rich media advertising easier. So that at the end of it, you will at least have answers to the following questions.

  • What is MRAID?
  • Why does it matter to rich media ads and in-app advertising?
  • How does MRAID empower rich media in mobile advertising?
  • Why should you look for rich media vendors with MRAID conformance?

Check Out Examples of MRAID Ads in our Gallery

What is MRAID?

MRAID or “Mobile Rich Media Ad Interface Definitions” is a standard set by the IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) to mitigate advertisers headaches of in-app advertising caused by myriads of mobile devices running on different platforms (operating system).

What the IAB did was, they defined a common API (Application Programming Interface) for ad developers. For which, the API is used for mobile rich media ads so they can run in mobile apps.

The API is a standardized set of commands designed to work with HTML5 and JavaScript (JS). So, when ad developers create rich media ads, they can use the command to communicate with mobile apps to perform the actions they want. For instance, actions like expand, resize, get information, access native apps like a video player, etc.

Why rich media advertising in mobile applications is challenging for advertisers?

It’s because these apps are built to fit myriads of mobile devices we have in the market today. That means we have many applications written in diverse programming codes using various technologies running on several mobile operating systems like Objective-C for iOS, Java for Android, and many more.

In other words, to serve rich media banner ads across a multitude of apps from different ad publishers, you’ll need to create a lot of rich media banners (of the same campaign) to fit the various requirements of apps: different platforms and the codes used to build those apps.

Here’s the thing:

  • How are you to push your ads into these apps quickly?
  • How would you efficiently run mobile rich media campaigns without the headaches of ad serving across different applications from various publishers?
  • What about the costs of ad development to fit varying applications and device platforms?

Now, let’s look at how MRAID can address these issues.

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MRAID as the Translator Between Creatives and Mobile Apps


Rich media banner ads only work if the rich media element can perform its supposed actions like expand, play a video, create a calendar event, display image gallery, etc.

So the MRAID standards act as a translator between your creatives and mobile apps to ensure your rich media banner ads work.

To understand what it means, let’s first examine the problem.

mobile-web-browser-vs-in-app

Mobile Web

  • Platform: Identical to desktop web
  • Container: Browser runs on HTML5 and JavaScript (JS)
  • Creative: Display in an ad-sized iFrame
  • Communication: HTML5/JS (iFrame) with HTML5/JS (browser)
  • Challenges: NO. They “speak” same language.

In-App

  • Platform: Fundamentally different platform
  • Container: App runs on native code of the device (i.e. Objective-C for iOS or Java for Android)
  • Creative: Display in an ad-sized webpage (a container called WebView)
  • Communication: HTML5/JS (WebView) with Objective-C/Java/etc. (native code of device)
  • Challenges: YES. They “speak” different languages.

You cannot expand your HTML5 ad. You cannot play a native video or display images from the photo gallery. You can’t access the calendar to create calendar events and many more.Communication problem between your HTML5 ads (creative) and the container it is running in means your rich media content cannot instruct the app to perform various actions for you.

in-app-communication-with-mraid

With MRAID acting as the translator, you can bridge the communication gap. Your rich media content can now behave as rich as it is supposed to.

This means MRAID compliant rich media ads can run within MRAID compliant apps from any publishers. Now your rich media ads can behave, as it should, like

  • Expand so you can show more rich functionality
  • Get screen size information and change size as required
  • Access the device’s native video player
  • Store photos in the device’s permanent memory
  • Access the calendar to create calendar events
  • And many more

In other words, you will be able to serve quickly and easily a rich media ad across applications from different publishers.

So no more worries about re-coding of rich media ad for the same campaign for various platforms. Imagine saving up on the enormous costs of running a mobile in-app rich media campaign!

 

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To summarize

  • Consumers spend more time on native apps compared to mobile web—86% of media time on mobile
  • It’s a challenge for advertisers to run rich media ads across multiple platforms from various publishers easily—applications run on myriads of mobile devices on different platforms using different programming codes
  • MRAID makes advertisers life easier—working as translator between rich media banner ads and a variety of mobile devices, which “speak” in different languages
  • The IAB established the MRAID to provide ad developers with a set of standard commands in API—they can use the commands to communicate with different mobile devices.
  • MRAID enables rich media banner ads to execute actions—expand the ad, play a video, create a calendar event, display image gallery, etc.
  • No more headaches on campaign development costs—advertisers don’t have to create multiple versions of a rich media ad to run a campaign across different apps platform.

*Data Source: Flurry Analytics, Yahoo, flurrymobile.tumblr.com.

MRAID Ads SDK Tester


Great news for advertisers moving in on the mobile rich media ads. In the efforts to helping advertisers to manage their quality assurance test, the IAB’s Test Lab has developed apps for the industry to test MRAID compliance.

According to Scott Cunningham, general manager of the IAB’s Tech Lab, “People will often create ad units and then get too far down the path before they realize those units are not compatible with the standard, and then they have to go back upstream and make changes,” Cunningham said. “We’re trying to eliminate some of that friction, labor and overhead and help with the workflow.”

The release of MRAID Ads SDK was announced on Jan 25, Monday. It is now available on App Store, Google Play Store, and IAB’s site.

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