Hagedorn On App Advertising: Less Is More

Mobile apps are an integral part of daily life, with smartphone users of all ages spending five hours daily on apps and checking them an average of 88 times, according to Scott Hagedorn, CEO, Hearts & Science, the Omnicom Media Group agency.

But apps are a two-edged sword, said Hagedorn, in a presentation at Cannes on Tuesday. Increased usage provides an opportunity for brands to connect with consumers in new, innovative ways. At the same time they run the risk of alienating consumers if they get it wrong.

While 38% of app users are fine with seeing ads in mobile app environments, 77% will skip an ad if possible. And half will do something else while they wait for the ad to go away. 

There are several things brands must do in order to capture viewers' app attention. First, brands must be granted control. Three in four consumers (74%) are OK with ads that allow them to control their experience or reward them, such as earning points or receiving ad-free experiences for a set amount of time. 

Also, in the mobile app environment full-screen takeover ads received significantly more visual attention than in-feed ads, but they also received higher negative emotional reactions. People just don’t like relinquishing control of what they can or don’t want to see, says Hagedorn. 

Indeed, brands must navigate a fine line between effectiveness and alienation.

Hagedorn also advised advertisers to "go native."  More than half of consumers are fine with ads that match the look and feel of the surronding content (61%) as well as with ads that occur as breaks in podcasts read by the host (51%). 

Brands must take into account an app’s context when developing their message. To accomplish this, media and creative must come together alongside the brand and publishers to ensure that ads contribute something positive to the experience, per Hagedorn. (Hearts & Science will be working with the 4As to launch an industry-wide discussion around balancing ethics and effectiveness in app environments.)

Most people are OK with ads that are sponsored posts from people they follow in social media and with ads that are personalized based on search history or things they have liked or purchased. Whatever the format, brands must have a compelling story and a hook that is unexpected and catches a viewer’s attention, Hagedorn said.

Ultimately, massive time spent using apps provides a huge window of opportunity, but just because people habitually use apps doesn’t mean advertisers should habitually place ads. Less is more in this environment, says Hagedorn. 

More on the agency’s research into apps, advertising and consumers can be seen here.  

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