Mobile ad networks are at the forefront of developments in mobile. Located in the middle of the journey from the advertiser to the publisher, their knowledge of the mobile landscape is an essential element of the mobile advertising process, and their work helps advertisers reach consumers in a targeted, succinct way.
The Drum caught up with Adfonic, AdMonsters, InMobi and Mojiva to discuss the challenges faced by ad networks operating in mobile.
One of the biggest difficulties faced by mobile ad networks is meeting the expectations of advertisers. “Providing clarity on how to approach mobile advertising and what’s actually possible in the space is one of the biggest challenges we face every day,” says Amy Vale, VP of global research and strategic communications at Mojiva. Vale explained to The Drum that advertisers and agencies often struggle to get a clear and consistent explanation of the possibilities of mobile is tough, due to the cluttered nature of the space.
Re-evaluating the marketing spend is another issue for brands, says Vale. “When a marketer or agency has to weigh scalability, brand safety, ROI and ultimately sales, it’s a big ask to have them shift the dollars from a “tried-and-trusted” channel into a medium that is relatively new and evolving almost daily.”
Trust is also a major concern for both advertisers and networks. With the increase in usage of smartphones comes abounding opportunities for greater interaction with consumers, but this also poses a risk – the danger of alienating consumers by over-targeted or irrelevant communications. Shrikant Latkar, VP global marketing at InMobi, argues that one of the biggest challenges for ad networks is keeping up with constantly shifting consumer behaviour and perception whilst earning the trust of the public, who are on the whole skeptical due to mass targeting from traditional advertising.
“With the majority of consumers now using their mobile devices for search and daily lifestyle advice, the opportunity is huge for a far more personal interaction, where mobile advertising has the opportunity to be useful and ultimately more valuable.”
It is this element of personalisation which arguably has the ability to make or break mobile campaigns, given the emotive nature of the channel. When you’re carrying the world in your pocket, you don’t want to feel you’re being stalked by advertisers.
It is clear, though, that people do want the convenience that mobile marketing can offer – so there is a fine balance to be struck for advertisers. There is the opportunity to utilise location-based advertising and other such channels to engage the consumer, who ultimately wants more from their device in terms of deals, offers and recommendations. Rob Beeler, VP content & media at AdMonsters argues that “users want useful services” and that the opportunity lies with retailers to provide new ideas for engaging with mobile users.
But to provide personalised experiences, mobile ad data must be tracked, and there is an ongoing debate over the accuracy of tracked mobile data, particularly across different platforms. The industry is currently working towards standardising metrics for tracking, but how else might the problem be solved? Beeler argues this might be overcome in the future by publishers requesting a user login.
“I see more publishers asking users to log in - not to prevent them from accessing content but for additional benefits. Logging in is going to help connect people across devices.” Beeler went on to emphasise the need for value in the consumer-advertiser relationship, saying: “Users need to get value for being tracked, and until then the debate over privacy will continue.”
Another concern for advertisers is the efficiency of mobile ads. The demand for real-time bidding (where advertisers are able to pay for individual impressions based on attached data which helps them determine the value of the impression) has increased. Paul Childs, CMO and co-founder of Adfonic, explains that the appeal of real-time bidding is the control and efficiency it offers advertisers. “The advertiser benefits from more control and greater cost efficiencies by bidding for individual impressions based on what they consider that impression to be worth, rather than buying impressions in bulk.”
One of the barriers holding advertisers back from mobile is the mobile app platform, which has, argues Latkar, emerged so quickly over such a short period of time, that brands have yet to adjust to the unprecedented adoption of apps by users.
The diversity of mobile operating systems and devices also presents a problem for advertisers, says Latkar.
“As consumption of media shifts more and more to the mobile device, advertisers will look for better solutions to deliver their message to consumers. However, the continued fragmentation of operating systems with Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon etc., presents a huge challenge for advertisers and agencies looking to deliver creativity at scale. The problem becomes even more profound when you add tablets, e-readers, and smartphones from multiple vendors with multiple form factors and screen sizes.”
On this note, what is the role of tablets in the consumer journey? “Tablets are “lean-backward” devices, unlike PCs,” says Latkar. This means that the consumption of traditional content like newspapers on tablets is exploding. But what does this mean for mobile advertisers? “There are several case studies where advertisers have seen clear advantages by synchronising ad placement across TV, digital and mobile. By coordinating the planning and buying components, brands can improve brand recognition and campaign effectiveness across all channels.”
What sectors are seeing the biggest growth in mobile ad spend? Childs says the network has seen increased investment in mobile advertising from the travel, automative and finance sectors, who are primarily using the channel to drive direct response campaigns in the form of click to call or form fills. “We’re also seeing some exciting campaigns from automotive brands utilising rich media to support product launches and to drive awareness.”
Mobile advertising may be a constantly moving landscape that’s tricky to navigate. But if brands want to get ahead of the curve and provide relevant communications to their target audience, it looks like this is one channel which will need to be embraced wholeheartedly.