ADOTAS – ADOTAS went to the Business Insider Mobile Advertising Conference yesterday as a media partner, and while there were plenty of cool talks about the confluence of commerce and content, mobile gaming, the particular mobile habits of millennials and a host of other issues, one discussion that caught our attention was perhaps the sleeper hit of the conference, a lunchtime breakaway session on RTB in premium mobile inventory. RTB in premium is a touchy subject, in part because of the terminology. Increasingly, there’s this chatter about how dividing ad inventory into “premium” and “remnant” (or “secondary,” or whatever else you’d like to call it) sectors isn’t sufficient (just yesterday we published a guest column by Benjamin Christie that recognized four distinct classes of inventory). And then there’s the question of RTB specifically in premium. Line up three executives, and one might say something like, “We’re doing RTB in premium right now, and it’s great,” while the next might say, “No, you’re not — that’s impossible; the infrastructure just isn’t there,” and the third might say, “Well, we’re not, but we’re calling it RTB anyway, because it’s still really, really fast.” There’s a lot at work here, and when you go so far as to bring mobile into the mix, you can’t just smile and nod and agree that this technology is going to be very big indeed.
While that exchange I just quoted is essentially a bit of fiction (although it’s one using composite characters based on very real people), the lunchtime talk did actually happen. Collider Media vice president of sales and marketing Phil Miano, Nexage CMO Victor Milligan, Turn senior director of business development Mark Balabanian and Razorfish vice president of mobile practice lead Paul Gelb sounded off on the issue, speaking unamplified to a packed room in which folks took exceptional care to not rustle their sandwich wrappers too loudly. And once the talk heated up, there was some frank discussion about the “premium/remnant” dichotomy. Remnant, of course is a dirty word — “I prefer ‘unsold,'” Balabanian quipped — and even premium, the panelists said, is not a static concept in mobile. Inventory can become premium based on where the user is, and when the ad is seen. “There’s this idea there’s a fixed notion of premium and a fixed notion of remnant, and mobile waters that down,” said Milligan.
That’s one of the issues the industry is going to have to work out, in order to provide transparency all around (“transparency” was a big buzz word at that moment). Milligan described the current stage of mobile advertising as “a precocious teenager.” There are kinks in mobile strategies that are still being ironed out. The panelists chatted a bit about ads in New York City subways with QR codes on them. One problem: Except for a handful of stations, you don’t get reception in the subway. Balabanian spoke of how Turn had initially offered its clients the same UI for mobile as they had for the web, and how some immediately started doing retargeting and everything else they’d done in display — which didn’t work. “When people try to do in mobile what the do in display, there’s a breakage,” he said. There are questions about how to track ad performance. “Mobile’s more aligned with TV than the traditional web,” claimed Gelb, who spoke of the importance of “get[ting] the data in-store” to businesses.
They’re all issues worth tracking (no pun intended) into the future, as the prevalence of mobile and the public’s increasing reliance on it continues to change the way advertisers and marketers will want to approach consumers.