I could sit here and quote figures about the amount of time that’s spent on mobile vs. TV or desktop, but we only have to look around us to see where consumer eyeballs are moving. This month Pokemon Go swept into our lives, overtaking Tinder downloads within a matter of days, and hot on the heels of Twitter. But what all of these companies have in common is that they are mobile-first and available on the go – giving marketers instant access to a highly engaged audience, on a one-to-one basis, wherever they are.
As a result of these new mobile phenomena, consumer attention is being taken away from more traditional channels. Where TV is still watched, it’s often accompanied by second-screen activity, with consumers instant messaging and accessing social networks while they watch, especially during ad breaks. What this affords marketers, however, is an increasingly vast supply of mobile inventory, and a more cost effective, measurable way of engaging audiences with their brand during that down time – and seamlessly continuing that engagement on the go.
Mobile’s measurement challenge
Despite consumers spending longer on mobile, mobile ad spend isn’t accelerating as fast. Next year we should see digital as a whole surpassing TV ad spend, but mobile itself will still lag behind TV – which seems disproportionate as mobile is the one constant communication tool between brands and consumer. There are a number of issues sitting behind this. Firstly, within our industry there’s a perceptible lack of measurement for mobile effectiveness, with brand marketers often left unable to ascertain its continual role in the cycle to purchase. The net result is mobile being seen purely as a conversion channel – compounded by the self-fulfilling prophecy that is marketers measuring and optimising campaigns on a last-click basis.
Desktop approaches in a mobile world
This click-based approach poses further limitations on the potential of mobile, because what it boils down to is poor consumer experiences. The ready availability of data in mobile has ensured that automated buying is increasingly used to drive efficiencies that were previously unavailable to marketers. But without proper measurement, the right insights aren’t derived to optimise ad placements – which should up relevancy, and so reduce frequency. A benefit to both consumer and advertiser.
Similarly, a lack of mobile expertise means that legacy desktop systems are employed, ensuring that mobile’s smaller screen is ignored, and consumer on these devices are subject to intrusive advertising practices – leading to ‘forced engagement’ and ‘forced viewability’. Automated buying systems have become heavily restricted to these annoying and forced formats. The existing demand-side platforms (DSPs) that are preferred by agency trading desks (ATDs) – purely for the sake of ease – are not fit for mobile purpose. Until we change that dynamic, and make platforms that provide high-quality mobile engagement at scale our default, it’s going to be tough to realise the full potential of mobile.
So what does the future look like?
It looks like a more sophisticated and coherent approach to mobile – that takes mobile itself into consideration as an entirely different environment, but also distinguishes between in-app and mobile web. 85% of time on mobile is spent in-app, meaning it’s often seen as more powerful. Simultaneously, data is much easier to access in app, so it’s the easy route for advertisers looking to start building a brand on mobile for the first time. However, what’s often ignored is that the mobile web offers more premium environments and impactful ad executions at scale. In-app marketing is incredibly effective, but only in conjunction with the mobile web too. Consumers switch seamlessly between the two, so marketers have to do the same – or risk having a disjointed set of interactions with their audience.
Advertisers want a single view across all screens, channels and devices. But the reality is that mobile is a different eco system – it requires its own approach and measurement, which can then be tied into data from other channels. Fortunately mobiles are on us all the time, so it’s not a stretch to use them to link online and offline behaviour together. Looking at Pokemon Go, much has been made of the opportunities for digital brand interactions in the physical world – and the more creative we get about that, the more we can understand the full path to purchase, with mobile as the single point of truth that underpins it. It’s the only way that we can move past reaching people not cookies, and control universal reach and frequency to avoid both waste on the advertiser side, and irritation to consumers.