Commentary

Mobile Advertising: Drop Your Desktop Thinking And Focus On Integrated, Personal Ads

With nearly one-third of the world’s population touting smartphones, it’s no wonder that marketers are jumping at the opportunity to reach this sizable audience with mobile ads. The mobile audience is always addressable, can be reached with hyper-targeted messages based on mobile data, and ad tech vendors are cropping up with programmatic solutions.

But in reality, the mobile ad landscape still has a long way to go before it meets its potential. Marketers are faced with an immature marketplace that lacks creative and tracking standards and has a myriad of vendors offering disparate and probabilistic solutions. To execute on mobile advertising, many are deferring to their familiar desktop thinking, with marketers translating desktop ads into mini-desktop ads for mobile and looking to programmatic to bring clarity to their buys.

There is one big problem with this approach: It completely overlooks the uniqueness of the mobile experience. Your mobile customer is task-oriented, using a smaller screen and demands that their mobile experience be immediately actionable, simple and contextually relevant to them.

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Go Beyond The Banner

Today’s mobile ads are not meeting customers’ expectations. In fact, data shows that 57% of online U.S. adult smartphone owners who see in-app ads find they interrupt the user experience; only one in five think the ads are relevant. To combat this, marketers need to embrace distinct, mobile-first formats.

These formats are still under construction as marketers and agencies are slowly tiptoeing into creating mobile-first ads, publishers are not yet offering a lot of innovative inventory, and creative standards are in flux. But as the landscape takes shape, be on the lookout for these four types of mobile formats:

  • Proprietary publisher-specific formats. The optimal mobile format, these ads are completely customized for, and fit seamlessly into, the mobile site or app in which they appear. One of the best-known examples of this is Facebook ad’s that mimic a status update in a user’s news feed. The good news: this deep integration reduces user-experience disruption and the unique creative enhances relevancy. The bad news is that they can lack scale and require a high level of creative customization, making this type of format succeed best when working with large-scale publishers.
  • Standard publisher-specific formats.  To solve for the scale problem, top- and mid-tier publishers offer a less custom version of publisher-specific formats that still matches the site or app content and the way the mobile customer interacts with it -- by swiping between pages, and scrolling through tiles of information. The good news here is that while less customized, the ad remains less disruptive, and the marketer gets guaranteed viewability.
  • Mobile-specific display formats. Mobile-specific formats, like the IAB’s rising star banner’s film strip, are uniquely created to account for the mobile experience. While still risking user disruption, these ads provide the richer, more interactive experience that customers have come to expect. These can tap into mobile features like the camera and GPS to enhance ad customization for that individual.
  • Standard display formats. The mobile version of the desktop banner that doesn’t match the user’s experience will do very little to change the interrupted perception. But these ads will persist, seeing a glimmer of improvement through dynamic serving that optimizes these ads to match the device, content, or audience.

Give buying a personal touch

Once a marketer has crafted a mobile-first ad strategy, it’s time for the mobile buy. If you listen to industry chatter, it seems like the answer to mobile buying is clear: programmatic. Ad tech vendors are rapidly expanding their mobile programmatic services, and inventory is pouring into exchanges faster than what we saw with desktop.

But remember: the mobile customer expects contextually relevant and personalized experiences from their phones, which requires using deeply integrated and custom formats. But because these types of custom ads can’t be completely standardized, they can’t be bought programmatically. This type of advertising also requires rich data to identify the audience -- and while ad tech vendors continue to navigate the difficult mobile ecosystem, many publishers are sitting on rich first-party data that they aren’t sharing with the exchanges.

What does this mean? That the automation of certain processes will take over to facilitate high-quality buys -- and this won’t be totally programmatic. In the best-case scenario, people will have to be involved. For example, working directly with publishers, and having the brand and publisher experts included, will create the most innovative, integrated, and relevant ads possible today.

1 comment about "Mobile Advertising: Drop Your Desktop Thinking And Focus On Integrated, Personal Ads ".
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  1. Anni Paul from BoscoSystems, April 27, 2014 at 11:42 p.m.

    The whole concept of going beyond the banner is still lost on a lot of ad networks, and for the life of me I don't get it. Airpush gets it. To a small extent, Tapjoy does. MM certainly does. Everyone else? They could learn from the above.

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