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Vox pops: When will mobile become a serious proposition for brand advertisers? (Part 1)


By Michael Feeley, Founder and chief exec

February 22, 2016 | 9 min read

The vast majority of mobile ad spend is still focused on direct response. With MWC16 taking place in Barcelona right now, we asked members of The Drum Network what they think needs to change before mobile is considered a more serious proposition for brand advertisers.

When will brand advertisers do more with mobile?

Matthias Kandel, senior strategist, Hugo & Cat

For mobile to become a more attractive proposition for brand advertisers, we have to look at two marketing disciplines that have seen rapid growth over the last years: content marketing and contextual advertising – as well as what makes the intersection of the two so interesting.

Today, brands expect razor sharp targeting to reach their audiences in the right context. At the same time, they want to tell their stories through compelling digital experiences. They want to showcase their products or services with immersive content that delivers on long-term goals, such as building brand affinity.

Facebook’s new ad format ‘Canvas’ may not be the holy grail, but it’s a step towards what could become a really interesting offer. Designed for mobile, it combines a rich content experience with sophisticated targeting. We can and should expect more experimentation with mobile ad formats in the future to drive innovation in this area.

Jon Williams, strategy director, RedPill

There is no reason to think that the growth of mobile won’t do anything other than continue to accelerate. In light of recent year on year ad spend and projection figures, mobile actually appears to be in pretty good shape. Brands aren’t blind to how important mobile is from a consumer perspective, it’s more a case of understanding how to approach it in the right way for them.

It’s inevitable that the app ecosystem, which represents the majority of mobile Direct Response will continue to lead in terms of investment by advertisers, due to the almost immediate nature with which ROI can be tracked. We will see more of a diversification as hybrid models gain traction, like Brand Performance, but all the indicators suggest that it’s video that is driving the fastest growth.

A lack of premium inventory and the prevalence of perceived low rent environments, such as games, has been the biggest obstacle to date for brands; however developments in mobile first formats across web and apps that enable a less disruptive user experience, like vertical video have attracted new publishers to the marketplace, making it much more appealing to advertisers.

Chris Pitt, head of marketing, Vertical Leap

Brands should stop thinking of mobile as a channel – it isn’t, it is one of many platforms through which you access a whole range of marketing channels (social media, email, search etc). Buyers still make a significant percentage of their purchases on desktop. More time spent making the actual channel engaging and valuable for all platforms will lead to more effective campaigns. With access to more data than we know what to do with, marketers would do better by implementing cross platform strategies that respond to the user behaviour on a particular device during the decision making process – rather than approaching mobile as a standalone route to market.

Tara Honeywell, managing director, Mediator

With the spend on mobile advertising one of the fastest growing spends in our industry there is a still a misconception around how best to use this platform to connect with audiences. Millions is spent on direct response yet I’m sure I’m not the only one who consistently closes or skips any ads served to me via my mobile. It feels an intrusion of my personal space and ultimately it’s not relevant to what I’m doing so tends to be disruptive - and not in a good way.

Brands need to understand that while these platforms offer us immediate access and a plethora of data to help inform us, ultimately we’re still humans on the other end and human nature plays a significant role. This is why content works so well and why brands need to shift their focus from being the life and soul of the party to being the host.

Phil Aiston, digital strategy executive, HPS Group

In the SME sector we could expect brand advertising to become more localised through the power of mobile. With giants like Facebook and Google investing more time and money into local content (i.e. Local Awareness ads and Google My Business), brand advertisers can spread their name in areas that matter most. On a smaller scale, say for an independent coffee shop, you can now push branded awareness ads out to people on the high street, even people passing right by your door. Even when we look at larger brands, for example fashion retailers, each store becomes its own local brand, able to push branded messages to a hyper-local audience.

This kind of micro-brand advertising will hopefully see physical retail spaces and online mobile advertising become symbiotic, reinforcing the joined-up physical and digital consumer experience. So what needs to change? Brands need to divert budget to these more measurable and targeted local ad types, as opposed to the broader, hard to track awareness methods used today.

Liam Milner, group account director, Brainlabs

We are well past the "year of mobile" we seemed to be promised for an eternity, but companies are still missing out on brand advertising possibilities. People already spend large amounts of time on mobile, and that will almost inevitably increase further. As that mobile reach grows, the platform will become as unavoidable for brands as desktop, TV and print are, even with the issues around tracking and attribution across devices. At the moment, other channels are safer areas in which to spend branding budgets because they are well-established. Someone needs to lead the way, whether that's a top digital agency or a big-name brand with a high impact campaign.

Matt Hopkins, head of digital, S3 Advertising

Mobile needs to change in terms of accessibility for potential customers. Brands need to allow customer to interact with the brand not just from a direct response perspective, the engagement is key and currently if you live outside London the ability to do so is found wanting.

The big supermarkets and certain fast food outlets allow customers to use the free instore Wi-Fi. Smaller Brands, in order to compete with the brand engagement could look to collaborate together to construct hotspots that will allow customers to enter the specific hot spots to allow them to interact with smaller brands through the free Wi-Fi.

The way that search engines allow smaller companies to compete with the bigger brands on their platform, rewarding the most relevant service needs to be translated across to mobile. If the smaller company offers a better degree of engagement then the brand’s mobile offering such as free location based Wi-Fi, mobile apps etc. should be more prominent.

Daniel Powel, commercial director, NMP

Mobile is not a natural fit for larger format brand advertising. Consumer indifference continues to be an issue, and I do not see this changing. Moreover, those formats that do gain attention, do so for the wrong reasons through intrusive full screen formats. There needs to be a shift from these dated and intrusive formats to formats that really deliver value to the consumer.

At this time mobile can deliver awareness in two ways. First, brands can use contextual video formats that have synergies with the engaged content. This can take the form of pre and post role ads, or directly as a pure “commercial”. The second approach is to use normal ad formats that build on browsing behaviour on other devices. One way to build upon prior views and/or engagement is within app and social environments. This approach requires succinct messaging that also ties in data sources which reinforce brand messages already seen.

Michael Moszynski, chief executive and founder, London Advertising

Research shows that consumers value ads in magazines and they actively contribute to why they buy them. However the same people dislike ads on their mobiles as invariably they seek to interrupt them from whatever they are doing at the time. We are all increasingly time poor, so why do people think the solution is to pour ever bigger buckets of 'content' at them? So until advertisers and agencies respect the audience and how they 'consume' information on mobiles they are on a hiding to nothing.

Finally we are told the reason to advertise on mobile is the amount of time people spend on these devices. As a strategic argument you might as well target 'sleep' on the basis people spend 8 hours a day on that activity.

Warren Dell, planner, Gravity Thinking

To appeal more to brand advertisers the formats have to follow the behaviour of how consumers use mobile. We have to start treating mobile as the internet, it’s not just a device for second screening but the place used to primarily view content and engage. It’s where consumers spend most of their time online and video viewing habits are only going to increase further thanks to social, but beyond those platforms there needs to be more enticing opportunities for brand storytelling to be told and to put money behind.

More native formats that aren’t clunky and provide a seamless experience on mobile will enhance rather than disrupt the consumer. While more measurement and understanding on the value of spending more towards branding activity will help convince advertisers there’s more to mobile than DR.


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