Commentary

Yep, Mobile Ads Suck!: Coke, Kraft, Papa John's Know Why

Saying that mobile advertising blows is de rigueur by now. But at our OMMA@SXSW session that asked major brands how we keep the format from “sucking,” marketers from Coca-Cola, Kraft and Papa John’s went the extra mile to reason through exactly why everyone seems to hate the format.

Well, to state the obvious, “most advertising sucks,” said, Tom Bick, senior director of marketing, Kraft, and we are tending to perpetuate its suckiness on a smaller screen. But more to the point, most “mobile marketers put the platform before the idea,” he added. Instead, suggested Bick, start with a big idea like Kraft’s “Give the gift of bacon” concept that is reinvigorating the Oscar Meyer brand, and then look for the ways it iterates on mobile -- mainly through social media, not banners.  “As soon as you chase the technology you forget we are dealing with humans. It needs an idea that is worthy of the space.”

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“It sucks because we are approaching it the same way we have traditional advertising,” said Zoe Levine, senior manager, digital marketing,  Coca-Cola. “You can’t approach an Instagram ad the same way you do a TV spot.” The problem is raising the “digital IQ” in companies, including her own, she admitted. There is a tendency just to cover the usual bases. And part of the problem is that mobile is a box that gets checked off in a way we don’t some other media. Coke would never make just “an OK TV spot,” she said, but “we won’t think twice about putting out a just OK mobile ad.”

 “We have marketing FOMO,” claimed Jim Ensign, vice president, global digital marketing, Papa John’s. There is a fear that if the brand doesn’t do something, someone else in the space will. “We throw so much crap at the wall,” he said. “I worry we will kill the goose that laid the golden egg.”

All three marketers seemed to agree that brands need to distinguish between mobile as an ad medium and as a communications medium. For Papa John’s, which does little m-advertising, email read on devices is the chief mobile medium, aside from the wildly popular app that allows direct mobile ordering. “It is too narrow to think of it as a banner or native advertising?" asked Ensign. "How do you communicate?”

Bick likes mobile for its ability to “elongate” the stories he is telling everywhere, releasing content over time. “I am extending my canvas and can paint a picture over time. These things grow with interactivity.”

“Mobile advertising is social, and social advertising is mobile -- period,” Levine added. If an advertisers wants to capture her, it needs to be in a place like Instagram, which Levine calls her “happy place.” In fact, mobile is a better way to discover the happy. The kinds of activity data mobility makes available tells marketers, “where you are, who you are and what makes you happy.”

So where are the brands placing their big bets? Levine says that Coca-Cola is serious about proximity marketing. “We believe knowing where a person is in relation to where they can buy a Coke is going to be big for us.”

Ensign said mobile is all about making life a little easier for Papa John’s customers. That's why the pizza brand focuses so much attention on digital ordering. The investment always answers a core question not related to PR or competitive advantage: “Is it meaningful for the consumer?” Expect mobile innovations coming in the next few months from the brand that relieves pain points for the consumer, he said.

In a final gut check of what these marketers really think of IAB mobile ad units, moderator Shelby Saville, executive vice president/managing director of Spark, held a lightning round where the three panelists responded to different ad types with happy, sleepy or horrified emoticon signs. Interestingly, the video pre-roll was the only one to merit general happy responses. The standard 350x50 banner got a “snooze” from all, as did its cousin, the expandable banner. Objects of sheer horror for marketers? The interstitial and the apparently dreaded adhesion banner that stalks the mobile user no matter how hard she scrolls.

The full video of this and all other OMMA@SXSW sessions are available in respective links at the agenda site

1 comment about "Yep, Mobile Ads Suck!: Coke, Kraft, Papa John's Know Why".
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  1. david bradford from Self employed, March 17, 2015 at 5:18 p.m.

    Bad advertising is bad advertising regardless of the medium presenting it. Mobile ads are a fairly recent development so there is certainly room for improvement. It is one reason that MetrixLab developed Mobile Ad-Vance to help improve and optimize creative executions prior to launch, and reduce the potential damage that can result from bad advertising.

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