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Mobile programmatic – let’s stop making this so complicated, please

Mobile programmatic – let’s stop making this so complicated, please

What do you think marketers really want from their global marketing investment in mobile?

The outcomes for mobile advertising are no different from those of all global marketing tactics: changing consumer behaviour and driving measurable outcomes. We want to reach the right people – those that are ready to be persuaded because they are the correct market fit for our product or service. We want to deliver a positive brand experience to these consumers – one that engages and inspires, not interrupts and irritates. That’s how we build not just awareness but engagement, which creates a strong relationship of trust with the consumer and ultimately drives a purchase or meaningful action, such as booking a test drive. We’re in the business of changing attitudes and influencing decisions.

Mobile presents a grand opportunity to do that, with its scalable audiences and its relevant, transparent and brand-safe environments. Marketers want impactful creative experiences – that also meet their mandated viewability requirements. And perhaps the greatest ask and challenge is finely balancing all of these components at a cost that matches the outcomes they are looking to achieve.

That's great, but how do marketers achieve that ideal combination?

The first step is quite simple: They need to understand the difference between mobile web and in-app inventory. For too long the default in mobile was mobile web, and it was acceptable because users didn’t expect much; as a smaller version of their desktop, of course it looked worse. Apps were seen as a poor substitute, a pared-down version of the internet. But then, very quickly, they weren’t. Apps got more sophisticated and soon overtook the mobile web in users’ minds as the “better” option, the best way to get what they need from their smartphone. Now, nearly 86% of non-voice mobile time is spent in-app.

But you can’t just blindly go into the app world and start buying broad categories. Say you were booking a TV campaign. Would you just book “sports” channels and call it a day? No, you would find out how SkySports indexes against your target audience, vs. ESPN vs. EuroSport. The same applies to app inventory – you must think about where exactly your audience spends their time.

Here’s the tricky part: the “safe-bet” publishers and traditional premium titles, the ones that dominate other mediums like TV and print, don’t necessarily translate over to mobile. For example, MiniClip’s 8-Ball Pool has one million monthly users playing pool on their mobile device – and nowhere else. ScoreHero, a football management app fronted by José Mourinho, sees around half a million UK users playing each month – that’s a highly engaged audience of football fans that is 100% unique to mobile.These are high-value environments with a loyal and engaged user base that brands are missing out on each day.

To the point I made earlier about positive brand experiences being ones that don’t push or force the user to stop what they’re doing, there is also the option of “rewarded ads,” where the user chooses to watch an ad in exchange for unlocking gated content or getting some other sort of in-app value. Most people are familiar with it by now, thanks to initiatives like Spotify’s Sponsored Sessions, but to learn more about it, go here. AOL, Line and Tencent have also made big strides into the rewarded advertising space. Why? As it’s the currency consumers expect in app vs interruptive / pop ad experiences. And, thanks to mobile-ad SDK integration, apps can cache ads ahead of time to reduce latency, so the user doesn’t experience any viewing delays or load times in those in app advertising experiences.

Finally, the ideal combination also needs to include inventory that is free of advertising fraud and meets your viewability standards. You always want to get what you pay for!

This all sounds great – but the programmatic space seems jammed with technical complexities and confusing jargon. How do you make it all work?

There are three steps to make this all work:

1. Be clear on the programmatic ecosystem and the role of each component. Let’s take a DSP, for example. One of the key roles of a DSP is to identify and integrate the highest quality supply available that matches advertiser demand. So advertisers should look very closely at the inventory sources each DSP has and its relevancy to their campaigns. To my earlier point, you must consider the makeup of their inventory (in-app vs. mobile web). And, of the in-app inventory, what percentage represents the truly top-tier apps, where there are 100k+ daily active users – versus a long-tail list of apps that nobody uses.

2. Be very clear on your criteria. Markets are zeroing in on whitelists, brand safety, viewability and creative formats – so do your homework. Align with DSPs such as AppNexus, The Trade Desk, MediaMath and TubeMogul, all of which are introducing standards that we also hold strong, particularly around how video is bought and sold.

3. Test and learn. Each DSP has its own merits: targeting, data, inventory, etc. Some work better for brands, some are stronger for performance/DR. Some are focused on cross-screen, others on video. And because of the various acquisitions in the space, the capabilities of these DSPs is constantly changing. It’s exciting, but you have to keep up.

What is the biggest shift you think we are going to see in programmatic in 2017 and into 2018?

People-based marketing used to be something that was mused about at industry conferences, but it is now becoming a reality. It’s thrilling, because it means that marketers don’t have to sacrifice their digital trading principles around inventory quality, viewability, creative, etc. in order to achieve low eCPMs, as we move away from “ blanket mass reach” or “eyeball” marketing towards an audience-centric approach.

Why do I think this? Take a look at what’s happening among the tech giants. Adobe recently acquired TubeMogul extending its Marketing Cloud suite to video. While AppNexus, LiveRamp and MediaMath have launched an open consortium for the tech industry to make people-based marketing widely available within programmatic channels. Finally, in Amazon’s Q1 earnings call, the CFO made the company’s advertising ambitions very clear, which is no surprise, given the gold mine of consumer purchase data they see every day.

Q&A with Jon Hook, VP, Brands and Agencies, AdColony EMEA.

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