The medium is still maturing. There currently is a lack of proven brand case studies, and as a result there are more direct-response advertisers driving CPC or CPA ad models than there are CPM-driven brand advertisers. The ad formats are still in flux, and the growth rate for consumer use is so steep that standard metrics for success are almost obsolete by the time they are published.
I’m not talking about mobile (yet). That’s how you described Internet advertising way back in 1998-1999.
The fact is, mobile marketing is experiencing the exact same growing pains as standard Internet display did from 1998 through 2002. My prescription for the future is simple: mobile marketers, publishers and technology need to have context for where they are, and they need a plan for getting a seat at the table of true strategic involvement for large brand advertisers. Like any good doctor, let me lay out that prescription.
First off, be patient. Success is going to come if you follow the plan. Mobile marketing has a clear path to success, but it is not an overnight occurrence. It will take time. The Internet marketing business grew faster than any other marketing avenue in history, and it took about 15 years to get a seat at the “big kids” table. Mobile will get that seat as well, and its growth is even faster than the “traditional” Web, so the timeline could be a total of eight to 10 years, of which we are really only five years in.
As for the plan, there’s currently a plethora of direct-response advertisers playing on mobile on a CPC (cost per click) or CPI (cost per install) basis. The medium NEEDS brand marketers to prove value on a CPM model if mobile will gain credibility. To do so, some larger publishers are going to have to give away mobile campaigns, either at no cost or at cost so to cover their costs for implementation. In exchange for these discounted or free campaigns, publishers should be asking for big, public case studies for the industry.
Back in the day, the IAB and a few other groups published groundbreaking case studies that demonstrated the value of Internet display marketing. These cases got play from agencies and marketers for years, and arguably the business would not have taken off as quickly if they hadn’t been published.
Brand advertisers never like to be first, but they like to say they were. That means you need to have someone willing to go to bat with a minimal amount of risk, meaning they can still spend their money where they know it will work. Give them the impressions, and give them the chance to be that trailblazer.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the form factor of mobile ads is currently not where it is going to end up. It’s still in the “468x60” stage, for those of you who know what I’m talking about. If the creative units are not more engaging and larger than they currently are, and if sizes are not standard across all mobile sites, then brands will decide not to produce those ads and they may stay away from mobile.
If you prove the value through a branded case study, and the creative is more engaging, then you as a mobile publisher have to ditch the CPC and CPI/CPA model in favor of CPM. Stop giving away your inventory and maintain a rationally priced rate card. Don’t expect $60 CPMs, but do expect that you provide a valuable service and should be paid as such. Every time you discount your pricing and every time you execute a performance-priced campaign, you effectively devalue the exposure of an impression on mobile, making it less likely for brands to take you seriously. You are shooting yourself in the foot every time you run a performance campaign. Be willing to walk away in order to take the high road.
Most of all, and I will sound like a broken record, stay the course. You have a clear blueprint to follow in the case of Internet advertising, so follow it. Stop complaining, “we aren’t there yet” or “When will mobile be taken seriously as a marketing vehicle?” It will, but you need to be patient. As sure as the sun rising in the East, and as sure as the Internet being on when you wake up in the morning, mobile will mature into a viable medium that marketers view as a must-have. Stick to the plan!
Or do you think I’m completely crazy here?