One of the more memorable quotes from the ever-quotable late Steve Jobs was that “mobile ads suck.” That was his view in 2010 shortly before he died, and he’s not around to say if he believes things have improved much.
But agency CEOs at an Advertising Week panel said his assessment made sense at the time. And it’s debatable at this point how much progress has been made toward improving the mobile ad picture, the executives said.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle to progress in the space is the nature of the medium itself, said Duff Stewart, CEO of Omnicom’s GSD&M. Stewart asserted that the smartphone, with close to 60% penetration in the U.S., is a very personal medium that people use to organize and enhance their daily lives. Ads aren’t especially welcome, he said.
But apps are another matter, Stewart said -- because if done correctly, they can benefit consumers in any number of ways as opposed to just hawking a product. “If I’m a travel company and I create an app that tells people where to go or what to pack, that can foster engagement and build a relationship and maybe even lead to loyalty,” he said.
Yin Rani, North American president of UM, said that mobile ads to date have often been based on models originally designed for other media. The key question, she said, is “what motivates you as a mobile user?” For marketers and agencies, she added, “I don’t think the answer is there yet.”
Another question for marketers and their agencies: With all the talk about content, should brands become publishers -- and if so, what’s the best route to achieving that?
“Most brands don’t have the personality to do it,” asserted Mike Lescarbeau, CEO, Carmichael Lynch. “They can be aggregators or a concierge for people and serve things up that are useful to them.”
But CEO of KBS+ Lori Senecal said her shop takes a different point of view and that brands most definitely can be publishers. But it’s not easy and takes a huge commitment, she said. Brands, she added, “have to think about the amount of volume that is necessary to keep it fresh and interesting.” The key issue, she said is “what the consumers want to hear about.” Another factor to consider is what kind of content will drive search.
Brand content must be authentic, Senecal added. “You have to shed the veneer of niceness and shininess and get in touch with an editorial voice” that will touch on both the positive and the negative.
On the compensation front, the big challenge for agencies is to avoid being treated by clients as a commodity -- and if agencies don’t address it successfully, “it will lead to further consolidation,” said Tim Spengler, CEO of Interpublic’s Magna Global.
The best way to avoid being commoditized? “Pay for performance,” said Spengler. What that means, he said, is that clients “pay for value. We put our skin in the game on driving their results.”
It’s not an easy model to shift to, Spengler said. “The time and complexity to manage that” is significant, he said. “But we hope clients are willing to follow suit.”