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Responsive design, mobile privacy and tracking among biggest challenges for agencies, says IAB study

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By Jessica Davies, News Editor

February 5, 2013 | 5 min read

Responsive design, mobile privacy and tracking are among the biggest challenges among media agencies, according to an Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) study.

The study, conducted across 350 UK media agency employees, showed 53 per cent of those questioned state they lack experience in responsive web design and mobile privacy, while 49 per cent claim no experience in real-time advertising and 48 per cent no experience in Near Field Communication (NFC).

More senior employees are driving the mobile agenda with 38 per cent of CEOs and managing directors pushing for mobile to have a more prominent role in the marketing mix – up from 25 per cent in the last year, according to the study.

However, when questioned by The Drum many media agencies described this figure as being surprisingly low. Mediacom managing partner Jem Lloyd-Williams said, “Ignore mobile at your peril is the mantra here and if 62 per cent of senior management haven’t grasped its importance that is alarming."

Mobile is not suited to all clients and campaigns but it is vital any marketing professional must learn how to apply strategic thinking with mobile in mind, according to Lloyd-Williams. “It’s a very potent channel and it is important the people at the top understand that,” he said.

The study has claimed that mobile is becoming more integrated within media agencies, particularly in areas including communications, web and SEO teams.

Meanwhile fewer agency employees blame a lack of internal resource as a barrier to mobile spend, having halved year on year to 17 per cent.

However, mobile privacy remains a grey area, with over half (53 per cent) of respondents citing this as an area in which they lack experience. Media agencies seemed unsurprised by this when questioned by the Drum, with several citing the lack of defined privacy laws undermines understanding in the area.

"It is difficult for anyone to claim they are an expert in mobile privacy as it's still such a new area and the rules around it are more like best-practice guidelines than law. The fact this many people say they lack experience here is reflective of a market problem," said Lloyd-Williams.

Tracking and measurement remain major challenges although the study showed fewer agency employees believe it as big a problem with 31 per cent of people citing it as an issue – down from 54 per cent in 2011.

Other media agencies questioned by The Drum said that they believed that awareness and understanding of areas like responsive design will grow once tracking and measurement and privacy laws have been nailed down.

Richard Hocking, Starcom Mediavest’s director of performance marketing and mobile development, EMEA, said the industry lacks leadership when it comes to tracking mobile devices. “It’s so fragmented there is no single, unified tracking solution – we need to get that right before we can build on that with things like responsive design,” he said.

Over 40 per cent of the top 100 brands in the UK still lack a mobile-optimised site, according to a recent IAB study and this must be addressed before moving on to responsive design, said Hocking. “There is a lot of focus in these studies on the internal, rather than the external. Brands must get the basics right first, and this is partly down to apathy and partly to a lack of clear ROI,” he said.

Paul Wright, chief digital officer at Omnicom, agrees tracking remains a major challenge on mobile devices without a standardised method yet developed. However, there are other pressing areas which have not been addressed in the report including the quality of mobile inventory.

“Much of the mobile inventory comes from apps but it can be intrusive to receive an ad within an Angry Birds app for example. There is a challenge there for brands regarding where they should advertise in mobile and whether it is a good brand experience to do so in these kinds of apps,” he said.

Wright believes social networks Facebook and Twitter are the “sleeping giants” when it comes to mobile inventory given they have the potential to boost volume of inventory.

“They are opening up ad opportunities in areas like news feeds, which feed into mobile and Facebook could arguably become as much of a mobile inventory supplier as a desktop one. What’s more, you can track more effectively through social networks and having both more inventory and tracking capability could help drive the market as a whole,” he said.

Meanwhile augmented reality, 4G and NFC were highlighted as the most exciting emerging trends by respondents in the study, with many stressing the need to increase training and skills in these areas.

However, Starcom Mediavest’s chief digital officer, EMEA, Ian James said the biggest opportunity is harnessing data to create more tailored, creative mobile experiences.

“Creative formats in mobile will be an interesting area to watch this year and in some cases it will outstrip desktop creativity. There are some really effective, creative formats emerging in mobile that cater to the smaller screen, and when you underpin that with data to tailor the experience to a specific individual, based on their location and other targeting methods, it gets even more interesting,” he said.

The IAB study, which is the fifth annual survey, was carried out in partnership with research agency, Work to assess agency approaches to the mobile advertising industry over the last five years. The survey which was conducted in December 2012 was completed by over 350 leading media agency employees.

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Starcom MediaVest Group

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Omnicom Group

A global leader in marketing communications, Omnicom provides brand and advertising services to over 5000 clients in over 100 countries.

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