Ansible's Steele Sounds Off On Successful Mobile Campaigns, Agencies

Angela Steele, CEO of Ansible, the mobile agency of IPG Mediabrands, last month served as a member on the Cannes Lion Mobile jury. After helping to screening some 1,200 entries, she talked with Mobile Marketing Daily about what makes a winning mobile campaign, mobile-first versus responsive design, native advertising and the role of the mobile specialty agency.

MMD: Having reviewed a zillion campaigns as a jury member at Cannes, what did you learn about what defines effective mobile advertising?

AS: One of the biggest take-aways is that mobile needs to be there at the initiation of the creative process. As an industry, that’s where we still have some work to do. I see it on the media side, as part of buys, but when it becomes part of the creative, that’s when mobile will reach its full potential. Another key takeaway is the importance of the user experience and designing for the mobile device first.

MMD: What about using responsive design rather than taking a mobile-first approach?

AS: This is something that will continue to be hotly debated because there are places where responsive design works very well, for example, publishing, and when people are consuming content. But when a client’s business depends on a mobile interaction, or mobile is required to lead users through the purchase funnel, the experience needs to be specifically designed for mobile. That’s something we saw in all the [Cannes] winners. [See list of winners here.]

Outside of Cannes submissions, one thing we’ve been studying recently is where the role of responsive is best and where a dedicated site is best. We looked at the top six retail sites, and all of them are dedicated experiences, such as Amazon. Another category we looked at is auto, and again, the top-ranked mobile sites are dedicated mobile sites.

MMD: Mary Meeker’s latest Internet report started the meme that mobile drives 20% of media attention but only gets 4% of spending? What are you seeing in terms of mobile budgets?

AS: It completely varies by client and category. The bigger spenders tend to be auto, because they started to see people mobile shopping for cars a couple years, and so they were earlier to recognize the importance of mobile, and also earlier to create content in the space. People talk about the barriers as to why the share of mobile isn’t on par with usage. The biggest barrier is creative, not the lack of standards or data and reporting capabilities.

We don’t have the creative to match the capabilities of mobile. There are some really unique capabilities, for example, location. We’re able to tell a lot about a consumer based on where they are, and where they’ve been. But I see very few brands taking advantage of that knowledge and developing creative that delivers on the knowledge we have about consumers.

MMD: What about native advertising formats in mobile?

AS: When we’ve worked with native units we’ve seen really great success; it allows you to deliver a more relevant and natural experience to the consumer. Some typical banners can be incredibly intrusive and they are in the way of content, but native ads are part of the experience and do a better job of respecting the user.

MMD: When you look at native ads in mobile, you think of social properties like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram. Have you found any of these perform better than others?

AS: It’s tough to say because we haven’t done apples-to-apples work across all of them. Part of it is, they each need to be used uniquely.

MMD: What about performance more generally for native social ads on mobile?

AS: Well, social is mobile, when you look at where there traffic is coming. In-stream ads can be incredibly powerful for two reasons. One, it's a nice user experience for the most part. And the social platforms, a lot of times, have incredible data. The balance of that is the cost-effectiveness. Sometimes those things can be priced at a premium that negates the price-effectiveness, so that’s the balance that social networks need to strike.

MMD: Just in terms of the CPMs?

AS: Yes. Usually it's a cost-per-lead or cost-per-acquisition—but making sure that’s cost-effective.

MMD: As mobile becomes a more integral part of digital media, does that make mobile specialty agencies like Ansible less necessary or more?

AS: I believe it’s more about the specialty than the business unit. You need the specialists who have great depth of experience at the table. That’s the most critical thing. We as a mobile specialty work very closely with our counterparts inside IPG. We have teams embedded inside Initiative, inside Universal-McCann, inside BPN, and also inside of the creative agencies. The model of how we work is more critical than whether or not we’re a distinct business unit.

One of the mistakes we made in digital in general, we said, 'Well, everyone needs to be digital.’ But what happens when everyone becomes digital is that nobody is really a digital expert. So I think the important thing is not to dilute that expertise—maintain your mobile experts but have them working in an integrated fashion with everyone else on the team.

MMD: How does that work in practice on a campaign?

AS: In the process, it works best when the mobile expert — the mobile creative, the mobile planner — is sitting at the table with traditional planners and the rest of the creative team, and they’re briefed at the same time. And then mobile is part of the core campaign concept, and the rest flows from there.

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1 comment about "Ansible's Steele Sounds Off On Successful Mobile Campaigns, Agencies".
  1. Skip Brand from bbd (branding big data) & Martini , July 14, 2014 at 8:32 p.m.
    It is great to read CEO Steele's thoughts on success shortly after her judging position of Mobile Ads at Cannes. As someone who has been mobile only some years ago and now back spending 80% of my time in mobile, Angela's five take aways seem spot on: 1.) Mobile First or At Least at The Start of The Creative Campaign Process 2.) Design Specifically for Mobile 3.) Location is Important (where at and where the user has been) 4.) Native Works Well In Mobile 5.) Mobile Experts at the Table = Mobile Working! Thanks Angela for some quick comments and guidelines for mobile creative, managing the process with mobile in mind, along with local and native thoughts.