The 7 Reasons Mobile Needs to Earn Its Place


ADOTAS — It’s easy to see why publishers like the Weather Company are paying so much attention to their mobile revenues. Whether it’s old or new media, The New York Times or Zynga,  audiences are increasingly mobile and the business just doesn’t run the way it used to. While the call of the CRO is to “sell more mobile” there are a number of reasons marketers have not yet shifted spend from TV and desktop. I’d like to set out a few of these problems and point to the work that is being done to overcome them.

1. Very sophisticated media mix models exist at the agency level to plan campaigns that are based on years of research into TV, print, out of home and now digital. In many cases these tools have not been updated to include mobile as either the current technologies did not work or the scale was simply too small to measure effectively.

2. Mobile creative has frequently been poorly executed. For example, a mobile banner may not include a mobile call to action yet is being measured based on clicks. Creative can be unclear or contrived — for example company logos may not be prominently featured or the concept may be more of a technology demonstrator than a solid piece of marketing. Studies show that creative is responsible for up to 80% of the campaign performance and with the small screen it needs to be right.

3. Existing creative formats often do not excite creative directors or brand managers. It’s hard enough to tell a story in a desktop web 300×600 which makes it almost impossible to make a strong connection in a 300×50. Now if our users would only click for more and see the rich media. :)

4. An inability to share cookies between the web and mobile, and a lack of standards for device identifiers has hampered the development of targeting systems resulting in an inability to optimize spend against the right audience. When a brand has very specific market segmentation it’s hard to argue for the mobile spend over online.

5. Mobile has long been positioned as the link between the online and offline world however outside of a small scale deployments the promised models have yet to appear. Digital sellers often claim that offline channels such as TV are not “measurable” but it many cases the supporting data is stronger. For example, marketers will run A/B tests against different cities and examine in-store transaction data to determine effectiveness.

6. Many buyers have been burned by complex mobile operational issues. A marketer once said to me “Why does it seem like 2% of my budget is taking 80% of my time?”

7. Ad servers were designed for faster desktop Internet connections and still struggle to accurately serve against laggy and more unreliable mobile networks. Today this leads to counting discrepancies, broken ad experiences inside applications and long delays certifying new types of rich media.

So with all this doom and gloom are we out of a job? Luckily any problem with this kind of scale has plenty of innovators closing the gap. From SMS text campaigns to mobile media in the mid 2000s we’ve been at this for a while and finally, we’re closing the gap.

7. Publisher ad servers are adopting client-side counting and third-party ad-servers such as Medialets are bringing a standard measure to agencies. Faster mobile connections mean less lag and therefore more reliable ad delivery. In many cases my AT&T LTE connection is faster than my home WiFi.

6. The wide adoption of iOS and Android has brought about de facto standards that have reduced the operational complexity of serving mobile. Rich media runs reliably and vendors have cross-screen tools and techniques to make it easy to build. Ad ops teams have run many, many mobile campaigns and are as comfortable building and trafficking them just like web.

5. Retailers with their own mobile apps are driving to store, mobile payments is a multi-billion dollar industry and location-based solutions such as Foursquare are showing real results with online to offline conversion. It may not be the QR code that early evangelists imagined, but mobile is finally making that connection to the physical world.

4. The launch of Apple’s Identifier For Advertisers (IDFA) has provided a cookie-equivalent that the industry can use to bridge the targeting ecosystem. Networks are integrating probabilistic data from major vendors and startups such as AdMobius look in many ways like the data providers publishers use in the desktop world.

3. New native formats, video and brand takeovers such as our own Branded Backgrounds allow advertisers to connect with consumers in a way that previously was not possible. Large, immersive, imagery and video have rekindled the excitement around mobile creative such that mobile is more than just an afterthought.

2. Agency and publisher innovation teams have led the way in determining best practices for mobile. The IAB Mobile Center has shared research demonstrating the best (and worst!) performing mobile creatives to help buyers avoid the pitfalls. In fact, we now hear that in the last six months mobile marketing has been some of the best performing for buyers.

1. With research companies providing in-app measurement solutions such as Dynamic Logic from Millward Brown and Nielsen’s Vizu we are now in a place where we can measure outside the click and update the models to incorporate the impact of mobile. Campaigns can be bought at a scale that allows more traditional measurement techniques to be used, and we begin to see cross-screen attribution studies using that online to offline bridge.

So has mobile earned it’s place? Has the year of mobile passed us by? While publishers focus plenty of attention on the mobile question the reality is that marketers see the world differently. It’s a channel in the mix, a technique rather than a strategy, and I for one am glad we’ve reached a point where mobile can be just a regular part of the campaign toolbox. Now then, when will be the year of Google Glass?


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