It has been a big year for marketing. We have created considerable momentum in addressing the challenges that affect not only brands, media buyers and media owners but also our most important audience: our consumers.
Under the banner of trust, viewability and measurement remain significant challenges for marketers. Although they have been on the agenda for some time now, 2015 has been a year of real action. We have seen Google, Twitter and Facebook – which between them account for the majority of digital advertising – all commit to higher standards of viewability and third-party verification.
This represents a huge step in the right direction, ensuring greater accountability and transparency in digital advertising, and long may that energy continue. My hope is that these steps will lead, ultimately, to 100% viewability through third-party verification across all platforms and providers.
However, we have to get our minds around the ever-burgeoning, labyrinthine nature of our digital ecosystem, which is hugely complex. As a result, better integration and greater cohesiveness in the way we work will continue to be vital themes into next year. Although technology has enabled us to simplify our interactions with people, these complexities mean that marketers will continue to face unprecedented challenges as we navigate this uncharted landscape. However, if we are looking for a compass to help guide us, getting it right on mobile could show us the way.
The number of smartphone users globally is predicted to pass two billion during 2016. Mobile ad spending is expected to be nearly double that of desktop by 2017, with an estimated $25bn (£17bn) spent on desktop advertising and $49.8bn (£33bn) on mobile advertising.
Yet with all this space for opportunity and growth, the user experience is far from fit for purpose. Consumers receive a wildly inconsistent experience across providers, networks, handsets and browsers. This is something we need to solve as a priority.
There has been a flurry of coverage recently around ad blocking and new mobile software that facilitates blocking more easily than in the past. Let us be clear: ad blocking is not a new concept. Audiences have always been able to avoid ads by leaving the room during a TV ad break. Now they have the chance to do so at their fingertips on mobile as well.
We should see ad blocking as an opportunity for brands and content publishers. My good friend Syl Saller, CMO at Diageo, recently argued in Marketing Week that consumers should always be marketing’s ‘true north’. Let us use mobile as a compass to reset our focus in this direction; to create content that people seek out rather than block; and to build a one-to-one dialogue with our consumers. The tools are there. We just have to set the right coordinates.
We’re starting to see success with this approach. Unilever’s Axe brand team in Brazil recently set a new precedent for moving communications from mass campaigning to one-to-one and personalised. The ‘Romeo Reboot’ initiative created over 100,000 individually tailored short films, targeting different audience segments with specialised content depending on interests and relevance. This was led through programmatic optimised for mobile and represents a move forward in how we think about what creative on mobile can do. It is early days and there is room for improvement, but it shows what is possible.
As an industry, we must put the consumer first if we want to get to this future. The broad experience on mobile still has a way to go. Let us create the right ecosystem for mobile to thrive by taking what we have learned from desktop, and work hard and smart to avoid the same pitfalls in order to build the most engaging, user-friendly platform of our time. The opportunities for marketers and consumers alike will be endless if we can get it right.