Are you talking data in the mobile-first world?

'The year of mobile' has become more like the decade of mobile. The term 'mobile first' has probably featured in every marketing strategy created in the last few years and yet it still doesn't quite feel as if the industry has quite hit the (mobile) nail on the head. At The Drum Arms at Advertising Week New York, we sat down with a panel of experts to better understand whether we really are living in the year of mobile, what the barriers to success for clients truly adopting a 'mobile first' approach and what really matters when it comes to measurement.

The panel, in association with Ogury, talked about how our devices today have become an extension of ourselves and for advertisers, and whether they have the ability to influence the customer journey through the entire purchase cycle - both offline and online? Data insight and analytics allow advertisers an understanding of their customer base like never before but how easy is it to understand the different between 'good data' and 'bad data'? What deserves to be measured, and what doesn't?

Will it ever be the year of the mobile?

“I remember talking about the year of the mobile when we were all on Sony Ericsson phones,” said Lisa Giacosa, global managing director of analytics and insights at the Spark Foundry.

“Thinking of mobile first is something of a cliché but there are still a lot of clients or marketers who look at going first with a 30sec TVC and then try and adapt it for a smaller screen. At Spark we apply our understanding of consumers to how we use our mobile phones, how we consume media, how we consume content, how we interact with our devices, be that through voice, content or data - and we apply that lens to our marketing mix. There is still some challenge in terms of getting all of that home creatively and having the confidence in the platform to do the right job for us.”

In an industry that has often been obsessed with the next best tech, thinking ‘consumer first’ rather than ‘platform’ or ‘mobile first’ is something of an emerging trend.

“From a consumer standpoint, we're always letting the behaviours of the consumers lead the way for our decisions,” said Ogury director of client strategy, Kevin Fitzgerald. “By 2019 time spent on mobile will surpass that of TV and so if you think outside the realm of digital, and focus on how consumers are interacting across all media channels – on their behaviour, it helps lead us through better marketing and media decisions.”

For clients, especially those that are targeting younger audiences, this means pushing their agency partners to think ‘mobile first’, if they aren’t already and being open to taking more risks when it comes to execution of campaigns. According to Giacosa, rather than the big 60 second brand manifesto, or a 60 slide PowerPoint presentation to convey an idea, clients should be open to agencies presenting ideas on a mobile phone, because that is where their audiences are.

Mobile-first paradigm for consumers

That said, not everyone agrees that that the industry isn’t quite there with mobile – for Mike Dolan, senior creative director at Quartz Creative, outside of the U.S and even EMEA it’s a different story. “The rest of the world have been ‘mobile first’ for a long time, and there's a much bigger audience than we have in the U.S. In short - if it's something people want to see, they don't care where it is. All the big sports leagues, especially they NBA, have been really successful bringing sports to a smaller screen. Regardless of context – it’s more about the right content.”

For Meredith Guerriero, US head of partnerships at Pinterest, human behaviour is more important to understand, than the platform you’re working from - “if you work back from the consumer you can work out how you can be more relevant within that mobile context. You have to work backwards, you have to customise based on individual experiences, how people leverage their devices, how they shop, how they find information - how they interact with the world.”

Easy to say but how can advertisers better understand what drives their audience’s behaviour?

“Start with asking - what are the questions we want to answer? If we start with the data, we'll be gone for 10 days and probably won't get the answers we want. Start with the problems you're trying to solve. Get to those questions and find the data you need to answer them” said Giacosa. “We have to be careful to not fall into the trap of 'we can count that, so it must matter'. The reality is we need to be holistic with our measurement, and always tie it back into business objectives. If you just end up counting all the things you can count, you'll end up with the wrong metrics.”

Mobile metrics & more

“Data should be first party, transparent insight from consumers who are raising their hand to say they are interested in hearing from a specific brand” according to Fitzgerald. “We've seen California pass legislation that’s in a similar vein to GDPR and I'd cross my fingers that other states follow suit, because it opens up a way for us to continue to do the best possible work on behalf of our clients but in a way that also puts the consumer first.”

Even with a ‘consumer first’ approach, human beings aren’t exactly easily predictable in nature and with methods and models evolving every day – is there any point in standardising measurement metrics in mobile? As Guerriero aptly said – “just as you standardise it, there's a new standard. There's a bigger shift, or a change, then there's a new company that tells you there's a new metric. The innovation is very fast.”

“Human behaviour can't sit in a spreadsheet,” added Dolan. “There is some value in standardising metrics, but I don't think it will drive the outcomes that people want. We've been playing around a lot with AI - and what you can learn from data sets through AI which is one road it can go down, but even if you standardise everything, you can't act on it quickly enough for it to have any impact.”

Fitzgerald takes it one step further, suggesting that standardisation exists to ‘make people feel comfortable’ – “the behaviours of consumers are pretty erratic which leads to fragmentation of the media landscape not only in mobile but across all screens. Yes, we can standardise from a measurement perspective, but when it comes down to understanding how to approach the right consumer at the right time with the right message, you have to be less standard and find ways to make clients comfortable with that.

“Some of the best conversations we have with clients is when we come to the table with data on their audience, and they have a preconceived notion about who that audience is, and it’s way off.”

When it comes to mobile, there will always be an overlay between art and science when it comes to understanding what influences behaviour.

For Giacosa, it’s also important to take heart that despite the ‘year of mobile’ dragging on, a lot has changed within that time. “I like to think in the 16th year of me talking about the year of mobile, we are finally thinking about it in a different way. If you look back even five years, what we’re doing on our phones has drastically changed. But because we're so involved in that change, we perhaps see it as more stagnant than it really is.”

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