Did You Miss the Mobile Tipping Point?

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Martin Pavey, UK Country Director at FlashTalking

It’s understandable that great many advertisers are still leery about walking fully across the threshold into mobile in the absence of reliable measurement and engaging ad units. However, I would argue that we are past the tipping point. Consumer behavior has already anointed the smartphone as the first screen. Foot dragging on mobile now means a loss of marketshare for advertisers. As the industry solves the challenges in mobile, advertiser adoption will only quicken the pace. It’s time to put mobile at the top of the media plan.


Green shoots are starting to appear—as the majority of media plans include a mobile component. But it’s often a small bit of programmatic and a handful of GIF creatives, all indicating that people are taking the easy option and treating it as a tag onto the main display buy and not designing for mobile from the ground up. Consumers have a personal relationship with their phones, and mobile presents an opportunity to reach them on that personal level. That means mobile deserves a different treatment, and a decent amount of strategic thought above and beyond basic display.

That opportunity is not without its challenges. For starters, here’s the great divide created by apps and browsers (mobile web), meaning that to marketers and ad tech companies a phone often looks like two different people.  That challenge, probably the biggest blocker to mobile ads being taken seriously from a measurement standpoint, is diminishing. Device recognition is solving this, by providing a measurement technology advertisers have come to expect from desktop; a full history of ad impressions and conversions is now available for a single device across both app and mobile web with 95% accuracy and completely independent of media influence or bias…

Importantly, device recognition has helped to extinguish the flaming conflict between app and mobile web, though that conflict itself seems to be on the wane.  Yes, In-app advertising appears to have it sewn up:  users spend 88% of their time in-app, whereas ad blocking and non-human traffic continue to plague mobile browsers.  With the market rallying round in-app, the challenge becomes making creative ad formats more accessible at scale. Enter MRAID—a set of tech instructions adopted by the in-app ad ecosystem to help move beyond simplistic GIF animations and embrace better quality, as well as more engaging rich media ad units. MRAID works well for in-app but using the latest mobile ad builder tools and HTML5 code APIs allows exactly the same creative to work on mobile web—and to be measured accurately.

Advertisers can now build scalable creative for mobile in the same cost effective way it can for desktop, bringing the efficiencies and media-agnostic reporting advertisers expect from mainstream display. Efficiencies such as being able to create one rich media ad and use their ad server for a single source of data across several media owners, cutting down on production cost, trafficking time and delivering clear unbiased reports.

The creative opportunities have been there for a while, but we haven’t seen much evidence of these being taken seriously. That’s a shame. Mobile ad serving tech today allows an open creative canvas for creative execution—programmatic creative, expanding ads, video ads and interactive ads that make use of the functionality and make a smart phone smart. Advertisers should take advantage of it.  Layered on top of the artistic opportunities is the ability to be creative and intelligent with message relevance. For example, marketers may use the device’s current location to show the nearest store or hooking up DMP segments for sophisticated programmatic creative. It’s all doable today if the strategic thought is given.

Once marketers learn to take advantage of the creative opportunities that mobile affords, the remaining barrier would appear to be measurement.  The truth is that mobile attribution is not some far-off promise. It’s here now, with the proper tools in place. With device recognition, advertisers can measure all mobile impressions and conversions, getting beyond the limitations of big media owner walled gardens that rely on log-in data. In the past, mobile has often been criticised for making it hard to define KPIs but with better measurement, that’s now solved—whilst every brand/campaign may have their nuances, the same triggers are there: conversions/sales, traffic, engagement, reach and frequency. These metrics are now all readily available without having to cobble together stats from multiple media owners, providing the unbiased source of data advertisers and agencies need to see the return on investment or cost per acquisition and plan for the future, on mobile.

We are past the tipping point. Hunched bodies in pubs, airports, and living rooms, gaping at iPhones is all the proof you need. And as advertiser dollars follow the eyeballs, opportunities for personalisation at scale through programmatic creative and now accurate, unbiased measurement mobile must take its place at the top of the plan.


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