As we approach the tenth anniversary of the first iPhone, arguably the dawn of a new era in communication, mobile advertising has reached new levels of sophistication and prominence. But a close look at statistics on mobile ad effectiveness—and widespread audience frustration evidenced by the fact that ad blockers are now used by 25 percent of mobile media consumers—show significant room for improvement. A substantial portion of mobile ad spend is being wasted on campaigns that don’t reach their intended audience, don’t engage consumers enough to create positive brand lift, or have a negative effect on brand perception and the ad ecosystem.
A recent Forrester Consulting study commissioned by Celtra, “The Mobile Ad Experience Matters To Your Media ROI,” (November 2016) examines the repercussions of poor mobile ad experience on media ROI. Among the key findings: two-thirds of mobile advertisers claim that at least half of their mobile campaigns are not effective in helping them reach their branding objectives. Considering US mobile ad spend was reported to reach $24 billion in 2015, and is projected to reach $72 billion by 2020 (24.5% CAGR), this failure rate represents an unacceptable degree of squandered money, time, and opportunity.
Mobile Campaigns Are Performing
Yet spending on mobile advertising isn’t optional—thanks to ubiquitous mobile device adoption there’s been a huge shift in media consumption toward mobile, streaming, and social platforms. The latest figures from Nielsen show promise: for the first time, mobile campaigns are performing on par with desktop campaigns, and outshining them in narrower segments.
Advertisers striving to increase brand awareness, brand engagement, customer loyalty and customer lifetime value must figure out not just how to precisely target their audiences, but also engage them with emotion-inducing creative, and transparently track effectiveness. And it should all be done in a way that doesn’t turn off the user, but drives the user to action (just not to the action of installing ad blockers).
Consumers’ complaints point the way to solutions: ads that are native (blending into the content and format of the publication or app), relevant to the consumer (needs, location, lifestyle, weather, current activity), and well made (from both a creative and technical standpoint) will be less likely to feel disruptive to the viewer. But for advertising to boost brands and sales, it must aim much higher than “not annoying.”
Discovering What Works
Mobile advertisers have enough experience at this point to know what doesn’t work: traditional banner ads and similar desktop legacies; intrusive targeting that feels “creepy”; polarizing messaging delivered to the wrong audience; low quality graphics that don’t resolve to the user’s screen and orientation.
Now is the time to focus advertising budgets and creative resources on what does work. Fortunately, data-driven targeting solutions are becoming more precise, and platforms are making results more transparent and building stronger links between online and offline paths to purchase. As programmatic buying takes over, brands are technically more proficient and pushing their agencies to make more effective placements. Now that ad tech has become more familiar and accountable, brands and agencies need to shift focus to the creative components: messaging, video, rich media, and storytelling.
There is little excuse for failing on the creative front, and in 2017 the gap between those who “get it” and those who don’t will become painfully obvious. SaaS-model ad tech platforms have matured into full-service solutions, encompassing creative production, management, distribution, and optimization for data-driven display ad formats, including vertical video, native and dynamic scrollers.
A quick review of recent award-winning campaigns from the Smarties and Effective Mobile Marketing Awards reveals a diverse, global mix of brands and industries delivering powerful campaigns. These mobile-savvy advertisers understand how to apply sophisticated analytics to reach their audiences at precisely the right place and time. They make smart, context-driven use of branded content and in-feed native ads that evade ad blockers and appeal to millennial consumers. These brands aren’t afraid to experiment with intimate storytelling, virtual reality, interactive games, and customer-generated content. After all, the most resonant ads are born of a quasi-magical mixture of marketing science, fine art, and captivating narrative. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Meeting the enlightened expectations of mobile users requires brands to lead the state-of-the-art, not follow tired formulas. Dynamic ad tech and smartphone features evolve rapidly, and the most effective mobile ads will leverage new capabilities in innovative ways. The marketing intelligence derived by combining data from social media profiles and online transactions with data from smartphones’ cameras, GPS, accelerometers, and gyroscopes is just beginning to be tapped.
Over the next year, we’ll see a maturing confluence of technology and creativity in mobile advertising that propels brands and agencies out of the muddle of wasted resources and missed opportunities and into a more lucrative era of competence and reinvention. Brands that prioritize creative excellence will lead the way to stronger ROI and a healthier mobile ecosystem, where publishers can better monetize traffic and users can get more enjoyment and productivity from content and advertising.