Get Some Action: Taking Mobile Ads from Attention-Grabbing to Actively Engaging

Written on
May 7, 2013 
Sebastian Tonkin  |

ADOTAS – With display ad interaction rates at an all-time low, advertisers are facing growing pressure to explore new ways to get noticed.  There’s the obvious trend toward audience targeting and RTB to boost campaign effectiveness, but at some point you have to ask yourself whether traditional display formats can get the job done in every case.

The answer is hiding in plain sight. Real relevance and meaningful incentives are needed to catch the eye of today’s savvy consumers. And there is perhaps no incentive more appreciated by the connected consumer than connectivity itself: Wi-Fi.

Once the red headed stepchild of the technology world, the power of the Wi-Fi network as a vehicle for advertiser sponsorship, consumer incentive and engagement is growing. More than 5 billion Wi-Fi-enabled devices have shipped worldwide to date, and Cisco estimates that there will be more mobile-connected devices than people on the planet by the end of this year.

Consumers also overwhelmingly prefer to connect their mobile devices to Wi-Fi. comScore found earlier this year that a whopping 94% of tablet connections are via Wi-Fi, while 42% of smartphone connections happen on Wi-Fi networks. With network speeds and mobile device usage increasingly rapidly, the appetite for connectivity, and the addressable advertising market, are bigger than ever.

Mobile device users’ voracious appetites for connectivity have made Wi-Fi networks a must-have amenity at consumer locations ranging from shopping malls to stadiums, widening the demographic playing field for advertisers – and requiring venues to keep pace with consumer data demand. The growing trend of Wi-Fi sponsorship can help venue owners offset the costs of providing Wi-Fi to their customers.

By definition, the focused range of a Wi-Fi network also allows advertisers to target their messages by location, and Wi-Fi sponsorships can also target consumers by device and daypart. But what makes Wi-Fi advertising and sponsorship the potential “silver bullet” solution to banner blindness is the combination of fresh, organic consumer engagements and the cost-per-engagement (CPE) ad sales model, which guarantees that advertising budgets are spent on an actual engagement with a member of their target audience – or advertisers don’t pay.

New, action-oriented engagement tools leveraging the appeal and hyper-local targeting of Wi-Fi are allowing for truly tailored campaigns that can ensure ad effectiveness, venue fit and network cost mitigation, and maximum utility to the consumer, resulting in happy customers and better ROI for advertisers.

Rather than passively introducing consumers to a product or service through a banner, Wi-Fi sponsorship takes a “lean forward” approach, asking users to complete simple actions in exchange for free access.  Recently, a travel service provider was looking to improve the install rates for their app among frequent business and leisure travelers. Travelers at eight airports with Boingo Wi-Fi networks were prompted to download the app in exchange for complimentary Wi-Fi access, resulting in tens of thousands of app installs – and confirmed opens – in a matter of weeks.  This same value-exchange based approach can be used to drive email acquisition, solicit UGC, deliver video views and otherwise guarantee captive 1-on-1 engagement with every impression.

Brands looking to increase brand loyalty and generate remarketing opportunities can request consumer email addresses in exchange for Wi-Fi connectivity at participating venues, an exchange that  more than 75% of consumers would be open to in return for a service they value, according to a recent McAfee/Harris Interactive study.

Even the value of the mobile video ad engagement can be increased within the context of the sponsored Wi-Fi location, without altering the connectivity experience consumers have come to expect. Starbucks, which recently selected Boingo as its advertising and sponsorship services partner for its more than 7,000 stores with Wi-Fi in the United States and Canada, will pair its existing standard IAB ad units on the Starbucks Digital Network with a full-screen captive sponsorship experience. Advertisers will receive 15-45 seconds of concentrated consumer attention that fits organically within the established Starbucks Wi-Fi experience that consumer rely on for work, study and play.

By creating a value exchange and offering consumers a service that they crave, these new Wi-Fi-based engagement modules sold on a CPE basis reach consumers in the right place, at the right time, and ensure that advertisers get some action from mobile devices users where they need it most.

Sebastian Tonkin, Vice President of Product Management - Advertising, Boingo Wireless

As vice president of advertising product management and strategy for Boingo Wireless, Sebastian Tonkin is responsible for the development of the company's location-based advertising service products and innovative sponsorship campaigns that enable advertisers to effectively engage with mobile consumers via Boingo's global Wi-Fi network.

Prior to joining Boingo, Sebastian co-founded and served as CEO of Cloud Nine Media, a unique advertising network that allowed brands to trade free internet access for 30 seconds of captive engagement in thousands of high-traffic consumer locations worldwide. Before founding Cloud Nine, Sebastian served as a product marketing manager at Google, and co-authored Performance Marketing with Google Analytics (Wiley, 2010).

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