Is Mobile Advertising Misunderstood?

What we do know: mobile devices offer unique challenges and opportunities for advertising and promotion. What we don’t know: the best way to approach and measure mobile advertising. Mary Meeker recently noted that while mobile now represents 23 percent of consumer media time, it has garnered less than 1 percent of consumer-focused ad spending. Is this because mobile is an ineffective marketing platform, or because we have yet to properly define what mobile advertising is and how to create a breakthrough mobile-centric ad unit? It seems clear that mobile needs a different and transformative approach to deliver impact and allow it to capture its rightful share of ad spend.

While the small screen and modal nature of the device pose challenges to deliver the advertiser message and consumer engagement, approaches to mobile advertising may be headed in the wrong direction, chasing a misconception of the mobile device use case.

Mobile is misunderstood. Location-location-location is the adage in real estate and in mobile, yet the importance of location outside of navigation and discovery may be leading to crippling mistakes for advertising in the mobile channel.

Remember the movie Minority Report, with Tom Cruise experiencing location-based ads trying to turn his walking excursion into a shopping excursion? As he passed by, advertisers tried to lure him into their stores just because he was close. These merchants wanted “Tom,” but none were really aware of what he wanted, and what it would take to get him to stop and shop.

Does Home Depot want to wait until you are nearby to engage you and get you to stop by? Is this the best use-case to define the mobile device as a medium and a channel? The most important item for an advertiser is to know you, your incremental sales potential, and what it will take from them to get you to make an unplanned visit.

I would argue that proximity and relevance should not be confused. Just because I am close to a merchant does not mean I have interest in making an impulse purchase, even if I receive a discount or incentive trying to convince me to “buy now.”

The mobile phone has become a constant sidekick -- you have it when you are watching TV, in the office, seeing a billboard, or reading the news. You will consume many different types of content on the device, and likely it is the go-to device at hand when other content engages you and starts you on the inquiry or interaction that leads to purchase intent.

In mobile, the transformative new ad unit must be concise and compelling and uniquely data driven with a new type of content -- one that overcomes display and context limitations and aligns with the intimacy of the mobile device.

Mobile ads need to overcome the modal nature of the device. People don’t “window” well on mobile and tend to be task-oriented with messages or posts, consuming content, or searching. Advertising directly competes against the limited space available, so mobile ad units must be concise.

Being in a purchasing mindset is not always location-based. The most effective mobile ads cause the consumer to start an unplanned shopping excursion, or can be triggered to release based on other transaction activity regarding the consumer location and purchasing mindset (i.e., if you just bought coffee at the Starbucks in the mall, it suggests you might be in the mindset to shop).

Knowing where and when you shop -- and what incentive it will take to get you to make an incremental unplanned stop at a merchant -- requires a new type of science that learns from both consumer behavior and response to incentives. Transaction intimacy and mobile intimacy are uniquely aligned, and can work together effectively to capture the potential of mobile advertising and create a compelling ad unit. The mobile ad unit must be intimate, location-aware and capable of doing more with less to catalyze purchase action.

Mobile represents the largest medium ever created, both in terms of devices and time with the consumer. It is clear that the transformative ad units can help capture the potential of mobile. However, the consumer intimacy of mobile needs an ad unit that is held to a level of personalization not possible without a closed-loop system. This closed-loop system has other data to inform consumer purchase insights and learns from their response to incentives so that they are concise and compelling messages that are welcomed.

1 comment about "Is Mobile Advertising Misunderstood?".
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  1. John Grono from GAP Research, January 21, 2013 at 5:36 p.m.

    Joe, I think the answer to your question lies within your article - "and likely it is the go-to device at hand when other content engages you and starts you on the inquiry or interaction that leads to purchase intent." The "other content" does the 'heavy-lifting' of branding and engagement while mobile is a part of the fulfillment procedure, and marketers are applying the value equations to those roles as they deem fit.

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