Mobile Isn't Just Another Screen

When the dawn of mobile media occurred over 10 years ago, the ad industry dubbed mobile phones the “third screen.” There was the TV, computers, and, now, phones. The mobile screen was simply another outlet on which to engage with consumers.

Things have moved full-tilt since then, as the mass adoption of the smartphone has seismically changed all of media, marketing, and information access for consumers and brands alike. Mobile is now most often the first place people search, look things up, and access info. In addition, the reasons, contexts, and ways that people use the mobile screen have evolved to be vastly different than those of other screens.

With all these changes in the media screen eco-system, why are most marketers still approaching mobile as just another screen, and adopting old models of advertising and engagement? This is destined to fail — because it clashes with the fundamental user behaviors and expectations on this newest of screens. 



You see, in my opinion, mobile isn’t just a screen:

1. Mobile is a behavior

People aren’t doing typical web browsing activities on mobile — meaning they aren’t open to clicking away, exploring links or general “serendipity.” Their time is constrained, meaning long copy, elaborate design, and multiple steps are anathema. And, there are many more distractions and complexities due to the real world context — so KISS. 

2. Mobile is an expectation

You expect immediate answers from your smartphone. Who directed that film? How late is this store open? What is the phone number for the restaurant? You expect the web to be easy and smooth; sites need to load fast, information has to be accessible and readable, and pages need to be designed for size and utility. And now, consumers have similar expectations of brands on these devices. So why does your mobile site take so long to load? Why is the information I need hard to find? And why is it so hard to find the “x” to close your irrelevant ad that’s interrupting my task?

3. Mobile is a transaction and tactical

People use mobile to solve and complete specific tasks. And because of this, mobile hates interruption. Which I find ironic, because most advertising on mobile is highly interruptive. If you don’t think that this type of tone-deaf marketing isn’t why a majority of millennials have installed ad-blockers, then you’re as out of touch as your marketing.

4. Mobile demands relevance 

When I see, say, a contact lens ad on TV or the web, I ignore it. But if I receive a mobile ad for contact lenses, it feels like an invasion. Due to the intimacy of the device and the amount of personal information and activity that happens on it, there’s an expectation of relevance and individualization. So when marketers choose “mass” over “relevance,” they take a big risk of getting it wrong – and earning the enmity of those they are aiming to influence.

The flip side of this danger is the opportunity it presents. Consumers actively seek out relevance and are willing to pay for it with their personal information and data. For example, 61% of smartphone users say they’re more likely to buy from companies whose mobile sites or apps customize information to their location, per Google/Ipsos,  and 76% of people who opt in to location sharing do so to receive more meaningful content, according to Salesforce. It’s pretty clear that consumers will share their information for relevant value-added offers and information — that respect their time, preferences and actions.

Marketers have finally hailed the ascendance of the mobile screen. So, let’s treat it more than just another screen.

2 comments about "Mobile Isn't Just Another Screen".
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  1. Anupam Tewari from Consultant, September 13, 2016 at 11:45 a.m.

    Truly so. Mobile is distinct, and there should be an 'architecture' for how we build communications for it, with relevance to the uniqueness of the experience on the 'medium.'

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, September 29, 2016 at 2:25 p.m.

    Ay, and there's the rub. The expectation stump. It is one thing when immediate answers for past actions can be received faster than the speed of light. It is another thing when expectations are far in advance of what takes more time including decisions and balance. That flow over creates chaos, wrong and destructive answers and the learning step(s) between the 2 has been skipped. So if you think the ride is bumpy now, just wait.

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