Mobile advertising: the evolution of the revolution

Tristan Summerscale, client services director at AdMaxim, explains how mobile technology is undergoing changes which will enhance the opportunity for brand engagement

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There is no doubt that in the world of mobile advertising there is plenty to celebrate at the moment – increased year-on-year spend, improved customer engagement, and device manufacturers competing to provide the next cutting-edge development. 

But while we are slapping ourselves on the back in self-congratulation, we must be conscious that the mobile advertising industry is about to undergo its biggest evolution to date.

There are few mobile technology firms that do not profess to ‘reduce the complexity’ of the advertising process – but how many have actually achieved it, what is the barometer for this success and what does reduced complexity mean for the media buyer and consumer? 

Market rhetoric seems to suggest that there is a technology-driven trend away from the fragmentation that has characterised the industry in its early years. But what will that look like?

Let’s consider the challenge facing us today. In order to deliver a campaign on mobile, a brand or agency may have to use a dizzying array
of suppliers offering different products and services across creative, media, tracking and reporting. This process is ill-equipped to effectively reach consumers who are increasingly using multiple different devices to consume content.

When campaign data and creative are not housed within one system, discrepancies arise and opportunities for technology-driven campaign optimisation are limited. This can lead to campaigns that are irrelevant, lack creativity and in the worst cases are poorly adapted to the device the user is on. 

“In many cases,” notes Mark Holden, head of futures at Arena Media, “mobile creative is still far too often a re-purposing of desktop-style banner ads into smaller screens and smaller formats.”

AdMaxim’s ethos is to deliver the relevant message in the relevant context for the consumer. 

Mobile advertising is a relatively new concept for consumers. It is hard-wired into their mindset that the trade-off for watching commercial TV, waiting for a bus or reading a newspaper will be exposure to a plethora of brand messages. 

However, the consumer has yet to link mobile consumption to commercial messaging. We are currently at a tipping point and it is up to marketers, media agencies and mobile companies to get this right through deeper understanding of behaviour on mobile.

A necessary step in getting that deeper understanding will be discarding traditional media planning and buying methodology, which does not account for multi-screen activity and the increasing fragmentation of media consumption.

The limitations of the traditional approach are exemplified by an encounter I had on the Central Line last month. I noticed a silver-haired, pinstripe-suited, briefcase-toting gentleman completely engrossed by his tablet. He would certainly have been placed in the sweet spot for readership of The Economist or the Financial Times, so I was somewhat surprised when I sat down next to him and saw that the thing so completely capturing his attention was in fact Candy Crush (a fiendishly addictive puzzle game with a cartoonish visual style). 

I was wrong to be surprised – consumers are presented with all the world’s content in the palm of their hand every day, and they curate it themselves from a variety of sources and devices, rather than aligning themselves with a particular source to the exclusion of others.

The mobile ad industry is on the verge of tremendous change

In a world where everyone is an editor and curator of content, programmatic media buying enables us to meet the challenge that a more fragmented media landscape presents. How? Through every ad served being based on specific information about that user at that time, rather than a set of preconceptions. 

We can access and use the wealth of contextual data available to maximise the relevance of every ad shown to a user. The goal is to be able to reach that business executive I saw through both Candy Crush and The Economist, and through the right one at the right time.

Relevance might be achieved by using the user’s environment at the time they are engaging with the brand. A recent campaign we ran for Domino’s Pizza served specific messaging in the evenings when it was raining. 

It might equally be their location – such as a Cineworld campaign where users were served creative when they were within a 10-minute drive of the cinema. The key to making mobile an essential touchpoint is adapting to consumer behaviour and their environment.

To make advertising through mobile devices truly effective, creative will also need to be adapted to that user’s device or environment. The most impactful creative will adapt to the specific user. This might include the content they are consuming, their location, their device, the weather outside, the time of day, the football team they support, their birthday, where they work or any number of other ways to make the experience personalised and engaging. 

As Arena Media’s Holden puts it, the key is “initiating ad experiences that feel like they’ve been tailored for a phone user”.

We can also take advantage of the fact that the devices these experiences will be served on have advanced as much in five years as TV has developed in 40. What has that got to do with mobile advertising? It is about providing the consumer with a better experience, whether that is browsing and page loading speed, or new device features being leveraged in creative builds. These devices can ensure the consumer experience of a brand’s mobile content is slick, quick and engaging.

At AdMaxim, we are excited about building a product in this space because we think there are only winners in the ecosystem that is being put together. 

Publishers producing high-quality content will get true value for it, by opening it up to the broadest range of advertisers through programmatic trading and ensuring that the advertising content helping to fund their business is of the highest quality. 

Advertisers can reach their precise audience with relevant content and consumers are given content that is adapted to their needs at the right time, in the right place. 

If we get this right, then mobile will not be a siloed activity, seen as some sort of subset of digital marketing. Agencies such as Leo Burnett, with its global social and mobile practice, and Fetch, with its out-of-home and mobile arm, demonstrate that this integration is already underway. 

If we are successful, mobile advertising will be seen for what it is: a unique way to connect consumers and brands.

Tristan Summerscale
Client services director

32-36 Great Portland Street

T: 020 7372 6099


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