ZenithOptimedia is predicting that by the end of 2014, mobile marketing will be worth GBP1.3bn, so that's a sizeable chunk of budget to be splashing out if consumers aren't engaging.
It seems pretty odd to write about how nobody really looks at click-through rates anymore before going on to make a point about CRTs, but here goes. In desktop display, you have an average CTR of of nearly one in a thousand and that only goes up to just over one in every thousand impressions in mobile. That puts the UK ninth in a league table of mobile CTR that it led by the likes of Denmark, Finland, Germany, Spain and Italy.
Put very simply, consumers don't engage with desktop display, and neither do they click on mobile display.
To be honest, it really shouldn't come as a surprise. Banner blindness has long been accepted on the desktop as the channel has moved from having any pretense of offering a direct call to action instead being focussed on branding. So when you get a smaller screen yet fingers are still the same size, it can hardly be a surprise that display doesn't notch up a high click-through rate on mobile. Let's be honest -- banners and buttons are far more intrusive on the smaller screen. The researchers at eMarketer suggest that all is not lost and richer ad units will offer some improvement. I'm not so sure. They may have upped CTRs in desktop, but rich media advertisements have not exactly reversed display's fortunes on the larger screen, so I don't really see that they will make a huge impact.
The message to mobile marketers is twofold. Just as with the desktop, they can accept that click-through rates are going to be tiny and see the medium as a branding opportunity or they can seize the opportunity to change tack completely and be a part of the message rather than the annoying flashing button around it. Given that mobile is a far more of a lean-forward medium where context is everything, I can't really see the branding approach working incredibly well. If you are out and about, you're likely to be doing something pressing and timely rather than reading the news or checking the weather. So unless mobile display can tap much better into that and offer a message in the right context, then I can't see it making a huge difference.
It seems glaringly obvious that the opportunity mobile offers is the second of the two choices facing executives. Rather than flash a message around the content, they need to be in the content. It might be a notification for a local offer that appears on the phone, with the user's permission, or it could be a sponsored article about whatever you're selling in that locality -- be it bicycles, coffee, jam or bars.
Facebook had it right all along -- and excuse the pat on the back, but I and other observers could see the tuning down of organic reach was all about making sure advertisers had to pay to be in a news feed, and of course, that's where attention is on a smartphone.
There is no simpler lesson from an Internet giant than how Facebook has transitioned to mobile as it dropped display along the way and put its proverbial shirt on native advertising.
Clever, context-aware, data-driven display campaigns might stand a chance of getting some cut-through, but then couldn't that data and insight be used to reach the same consumer through a promoted social media post, an offer direct from your brand or a rewards scheme, or maybe content suggested within the site they are checking out to keep up with the news, book travel tickets, see what's on at the cinema that evening, and so on?
It never ceases to amaze me how many advertising executives have lined up to say the days of interruption are over, only to then carry on trying to interrupt people on desktop -- and worse still, the mobile phone.
Now that mobile marketing has climbed and surpassed the billion pounds-per-year mark, isn't it time to dial down flashing button and banners?
Isn't time to be the message, rather than the annoying flashing button around it?