There once was a time back in 1995 when we all clicked on ad banners just to see what happened. Remember when Internet purists complained that the arrival of advertising to their sacred compound would ruin it for everyone? No doubt there are digital utopians who still believe that commercial interests have warped the dream of a truly open freeway of information. Arguably, the Web has exacted its own revenge on rampant commercial development. Curiosity about online advertising has evolved into blindness to ads. Almost every format of online advertising since the banner has seen its halcyon beginnings, with impressive recall and clickthrough rates eroding over time. We come to expect now diminishing returns from new platforms. How many of us clicked on every new iAd we saw over the summer just to see what novel execution Apple's collection of cajoled agencies came up with? How many do now?
But one of the advantages of mobile media and advertising has been the focus and limited clutter the medium allows. Because of this limited screen real estate and larger mindshare, we have tended to see mobile ad effectiveness maintain its edge longer than some formats that preceded it. InsightExpress has just run a fascinating comparison of mobile vs. online brand impact from advertising. Aggregating results from campaigns over the last three years, InsightExpress shows that on fundamental branding metrics for ad awareness, mobile produced a 23% lift compared to 8% for online campaigns. While awareness produced some of the biggest differentials between mobile and Web, message association also showed a 14% delta for mobile vs. 3% for Web. Surely awareness and messaging are functions of the increased focus the user has on a mobile device and the less cluttered environments that make ads simply more visible here. But the most interesting metric is purchase intent, which enjoyed an 11% lift on mobile compared to 3% on the Web.
The best news is that mobile has maintained its effectiveness, and even improved its strength, over the course of the last few years. When tracked on an annual basis, for instance, the norms for mobile campaigns saw unaided awareness lifts of 8% in 2007-2006, 8% again in 2008-2009, and 10% in 2009-2010. Purchase intent lift on campaigns was 8% three years ago, 13% two year ago and 13% again last year.
InsightExpress was looking at a total of 130 campaigns over the three year, including formats on mobile Web, SMS, video, in-app, etc., so we have to allow for small samples in some areas and perhaps a growing importance of rich media to the mix. The mobile ad norm in 2007-2009 was in the 14% to 16% range, but in the most recent sample it shot up to 31%. Similarly, message association went from 10% and 11% to 20%. Senior Director at InsightExpress Joy Liuzzo says, "We've known that mobile is effective for a few years but, for some in the industry, there has always been a nagging voice saying 'this can't last.' Well, we're seeing that it can. When we compare the norms for the past three years, most metrics are stable; however, the campaigns in the past year have done a great job of capturing consumers' attention and educating them."
Another important point about mobile ad impact is its resilience across devices. Despite our tendency to believe that the bigger screen and lush app environment of smartphones are behind the recent push by mobile advertising, the data suggests less of an effect than we presume. In looking at the brand impact deltas across devices, smartphones had their greatest advantage over feature phones in raising mobile ad awareness (39% vs. 28%), but in most other metrics the difference was more incremental. In fact in aided awareness, feature phone campaigns shows a 9% increase compared to 7% for smartphones. This leads me to think that the sustained and superior branding impact of mobile campaigns has as much to do with user focus and an ad's prominent, singular presence on a screen than it does with the actual size and sophistication of that screen.
For more detail from the InsightExpress work, you can grab graphs here.
And those of you coming to Key Biscayne on Feb. 2-5 for the Mobile Insider Summit will be able to see Joy present the most up-to-date findings on how we made use of our mobile devices during the recent holiday season.