Why Mobile Is An Overhyped Platform - And What Needs To Change

This may come as a shock, but 2016 is not the year of mobile advertising. 

Indeed, we have yet to hit that particular advertising milestone – despite bold proclamations for nearly a decade that mobile would soon become the holy grail of advertising channels. 

The truth is mobile as an advertising platform is vastly overhyped. For years, advertisers have confused and conflated the fact that users are flocking to mobile devices as proof that it’s an effective and mature advertising medium. The mobile advertising opportunity is not guaranteed just because the technographic behavior of consumers interacting with their phones exists.  

And in many instances publishers and agencies alike have propped up the merits of mobile banner advertising using data even they know is faulty. Look at the click-through rates: yes, they’re unbelievable on mobile – averaging five time better than banner ads on desktop; but we’ve found that 90% of mobile clicks are actually inadvertent and caused by thick-finger syndrome. And, advertisers are getting charged for those mis-clicks. This isn’t a hallmark of an effective ad platform. 



So far, the best way to reach people effectively on mobile has been native advertising. But this misses the bigger point, which is that native advertising has always existed (it wasn’t created just for mobile) and it can come with major costs. The reasons brands and agencies have always had lighter native content strategies is because it’s expensive to generate compelling, interesting content. It’s also consumed incredibly quickly and has a low reusability rate. 

For mobile to become effective, advertisers and publishers need to innovate what they’re offering in a big way to capture consumer attention and engage them with advertising. They need to push devices to do more than they’re already doing. Certainly there are signs that those innovations are impending. Here are three things to look forward to as mobile advertising continues to innovate: 

1. Beyond the banner: Facebook is currently rolling out an exciting ad unit called Canvas, which encourages brands to create more immersive mobile advertising experiences. Canvas ads appear as a sponsored post in Facebook’s newsfeed; but when the post is tapped people get a full screen take-over experience, where they can flip and scroll through original content. Canvas is optimized for mobile and loads faster than Facebook’s other mobile ad units. Canvas is shaping up to be the most expressive and immersive Facebook ad unit to date thanks to its ability to allow a brand to break through the clutter, tell a different story in a branded environment and hook consumers with fresh content. To do this, however, is obviously a big time commitment and expense for brands. And, as with any new ad format, it will take time and experimentation for marketers to use Canvas to its full potential.

2. Second-screen opportunity: There’s huge and relatively untapped potential for brands to capture a larger audience through the second screen by tying mobile applications to television events. Gatorade did a spot-on job of this during last month’s Super Bowl, with its SnapChat filter. Their sponsored filter allowed fans to get virtually dowsed with a bucket of Gatorade. The campaign was a resounding success, with 100 million views. This showed the power of second-screening during the game by allowing fans to take part in one of the most famous post-game rituals of the Super Bowl – the Gatorade dump over the head of the winning team’s coach. Indeed, there were about one billion gallons of virtual Gatorade spilled during the SnapChat campaign – proving that fans are eager to participate in the brand experience as long as creativity and relevance hit the right note. 

3. Location, location, location: Delivering highly relevant advertising at the exact moment consumers are looking for it will, of course, help make mobile a crucial ad platform. Beacons and location data are important tools for mobile advertising in 2016. As this type of technology continues to ramp up, more and more consumers will be served relevant offers and ads as they browse store shelves or walk past retailers. To date, much of this technology has been relatively nascent but it is maturing quickly, with companies like Skyhook Wireless, FourSquare, and Swirl working with retailers and advertisers to innovate and reach consumers when they’re contemplating a purchase – right at the shelf. 

The lessons here are clear. Bringing the big world together on the small screen can draw other channels together more tightly. Mobile should support and be supported by what consumers experience on TV, desktop, print, radio, OOH and more. Then it really will be mobile’s time to shine.

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