Why Mobile Advertising is Missing Its Target

Mobile has a unique way of mirroring our life experiences, serving as an extension of our thoughts, actions and even identity. The mobile experience is personal, versatile and complex and yet mobile advertising is still activated as if it were part of the same one-dimensional paradigm of TV or radio or even desktop.

Where too many mobile campaigns fall short is in understanding the broader context of the consumer experience.

Today, it’s simply not enough to know that someone is using a device, or even where or when they use it. Advertisers need to ask tougher questions: What is the mobile consumer trying to achieve? Are they active? Passive? Working? Playing? How does this session fit in as part of their overall mobile behavior? Most importantly, does advertising have a place in the experience?

Because mobile campaigns don’t address the nuance of mobile experiences, they often feel as if they are designed for devices instead of humans. It’s not really surprising that performance isn’t where it could be—mobile advertising is missing its target.

Increasing Complexity

According to Zenith’s recent Mobile Advertising Forecast, mobile will represent three out of every four minutes of Web use in 2017—the pressure for return is mounting. That’s why today’s advertisers need an approach that rises not just to the technical complexity of devices, but addresses the complexity of the humans using those devices.

Advertising is about people, how do we get back to that?

Some might argue that user experience has long been a key part of the process. After all, there are ample efforts that go into enabling functional ads across a fragmented landscape of mobile devices.

But even the most battle-tested creative can’t be successful if it doesn’t connect with its audience.

Observe and Learn

But these aren’t easy questions, and they can’t be answered with the traditional approach to demographic data and targeting. Looking at individual data points like age, gender or even location isn’t enough to evaluate if “this” is a good moment for an advertisement.

To navigate an environment that mirrors human life—and to keep pace with its continual evolution—advertisers need a better grip on mobile behavior.

Fortunately, we’re moving into an age where smarter analysis of consumer data is possible. Even better, a great deal of insight can be gained without digging into invasive levels of personal information. The value comes from using what’s already available more intelligently.

More specifically, instead of just identifying data points, advertisers today can interpret those data points to find the trends that drive engagement. In a mobile campaign, advertisers should consider?  how does weather influence engagement at various locations? What bearing does time of day have on session length and click-through? How do historical activities influence the likelihood of engagement today?

These are questions that can be—and should be—considered in a mobile campaign.

Emotional Journey

Along the same lines, it’s not enough to know that a consumer is moving closer to purchase today because, along that journey, there will still be variables in their mind-set that influence receptivity to advertising. Advertisers need to map the emotional journey and understand how it correlates to the purchase path.

Only then can they deliver more relevant messages that are also more considerate of—even complementary to—the user experience.

There is also a lot to gain in the analysis of ad formats and their performance across different mobile experiences. Rich media ads, for example, have been running on mobile devices for years now. But delivery is determined by the ad call; a consumer’s receptivity to more immersive creative in that moment has been conspicuously absent in the decisioning process.

This means a lot of campaigns are burning dollars on more costly rich media impressions.

Today, advertisers can no longer afford to spin their wheels in the mobile environment. They need to embrace more sophisticated approaches to data in order to clear the way for smarter targeting and eliminate dead weight (poorly-timed impressions) on campaigns.

Despite mobile’s well-documented challenges, there is a bright future for an industry that is hungry for more positive and productive mobile campaigns—provided that everyone remembers that it’s the consumer, not the device, that gets the message.





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