Smart Mobile Advertising Requires Intelligent Ad Serving


Philppa Page, Mobile Business Development Manager at Flashtalking, Inc.

There’s a good chance that you’re reading this on your phone. In fact, the odds are better than even that you are reading this on your phone or tablet. That’s because in 2015, UK adults began spending more time on their mobile devices than on desktop, according to eMarketer.

The reality is, smartphones and tablets – two technologies that didn’t exist a decade ago – are now taking up an increasing amount of our time. One parlor game I like to play is to visit a public place like a restaurant or park and count the number of people who aren’t engaged with their phones. They are often in the minority.

Unfortunately, many marketers are still figuring out how to penetrate consumers’ mobile experiences. In Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends report, she estimates the gap between mobile media use and mobile ad spending as a $22 billion opportunity that advertisers will fill with more and more mobile impressions.

Advertisers who are resisting mobile do so at their peril. That’s because their competitors are likely learning about the new array of targeting possibilities that are available on the platform, ranging from location to weather to harnessing first- and third-party data. Such precision requires intelligent ad serving.



Mobile’s challenge is to ensure that messages are clear, but most importantly, relevant. In digital advertising in general over the past few years, the medium has overshadowed the message. By this I mean that the discussion has mostly been around how to distribute messages rather than the message itself.

This underestimates the potential of mobile advertising. The ability to deliver a message to the right person at the right time increases the pressure on creative to deliver the right message. Luckily, we have the tools at our disposal to craft messages with concern for location, weather, time of day and other variables. As a result, the messages you send can seem fresh and spontaneous, which set them apart from pretty much all other ad messages.

The truth is, with the rise of ad blocking (which in the UK now threatens ads at the carrier-level for mobile devices), making quality, relevant advertising is no longer a choice. It’s mandatory.


Customised Messaging

What does relevance look like? Picture this: you’re taking a walk on a scorching summer day when an ad on your phone tells you that the local UV index is 8, which is high. The ad tells you that within 15 minutes your skin will be damaged. It then lets you find a store that stocks sunscreen and even includes directions on how to get there.

This approach is called dynamic creative or programmatic creative – and it’s all about context. It’s an incredibly effective way to personalise a message. Particularly on mobile, a granularly targeted message can present a brand and a pitch in a way that’s sensitive to time, exact location, temperature, to whether you are running, driving, on your way home or on your way out.

The sensor-rich mobile phone allows advertisers to deliver the message more effectively, but it also provides for a more effective message.  Dynamic creative messages can be adapted based on several variables to make it even more targeted to that user. For example, Thomson Holidays use a weather feed in combination with geo-proximity to pinpoint where the user is and what the weather is like. If the weather is bad, the ad displays the temperature along with a visual of the current weather conditions. The ad then displays the nearest airport to the viewer and a compelling holiday offer to escape the bad weather.

Other dynamic creative messages can take note of a user’s cellular connection. If the user is on Wi-Fi, then a video ad is appropriate but if not, then the advertiser can opt for a rich media creative so as not to drain the user’s data plan. Save the Children has most recently used this.


Creative Optimisation

Creating such messaging on the fly requires intelligent ad servers. This means a server that is pulling real-time data, assessing opportunities and following a decision tree — all in real time. It also requires constant analysis and testing to ensure that the most effective messages are going out.

An important distinction is that an intelligent ad server lets you continually optimise your strategy throughout the lifetime of the campaign, without being dependent on the DSP/exchange. Targeting at the ad server level rather than via the DSP will also let you grow your audience while continuing to granularly target each user. This makes optimisation easier because you can access performance across the media buys within the ad server. Since all the data is centralised, it’s easier to notice patterns and make decisions.

Marketers need an intelligent ad server to navigate the current complex media environment. That’s especially true when it comes to mobile. This intimate and increasingly pervasive portal into consumers is quickly becoming the main event, making for even more silent dinners.

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