Mobile Agency

Reaching consumers in the mobile moment with programmatic display

By Emma Ashby | head of display



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September 7, 2017 | 8 min read

IAB’s latest advertising stats have shown that mobile ad spend has increased 50.8% year-on-year, with ads on mobile making up a massive 38% of overall digital ad spend.

Consumers are becoming increasingly mobile-connected; rather than simply being used as a research channel, mobile is growing as the device used to make purchases, which opens up a range of exciting and creative opportunities for advertising tactics to be used that are unique to mobile.

The very personal nature of the mobile device allows brands to create a one-to-one experience, giving the opportunity to engage with users on a personal level. We take a look at some of the formats and tactics that can form your programmatic display approach on mobile.


Mobile moments

Formats for mobile

Mobile provides a totally different user experience from desktop, meaning it’s crucial for creative assets to be developed with mobile delivery in mind. It’s important to understand the contexts in which different channels on mobile are used, and provide the best format to suit that environment and audience motivation.

Technological advances such as the rise of 4G coverage have changed the way audiences consume media, and therefore given advertisers the opportunity to reach audiences in ways which simply weren’t possible before.


Native ads are a popular choice for mobile display as they blend into their environment and don’t obstruct the user experience, it’s perhaps why native display advertising has increased 28% year-on-year.

Often, native formats are in-stream ads, such as those shown in a Facebook feed, but native ads are also those which are shown in the right context, i.e. next to relevant content. Native ads often generate a higher lift than traditional display ads.

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Video ad spend is now the fastest growing format, up 56% year-on-year, and it’s not hard to see why. The popularity of video has given rise to a realm of new targeting possibilities, using audience and contextual data points to create an immersive brand experience.

Epiphany’s recent consumer research found that 23% of UK consumers watch video on their smartphone on a daily basis, with 28% of 25 to 34-year-olds using video to research a future purchase, indicating its key role in the path to purchase. From social video to pre-roll, each video format caters to different audiences and contexts.

Location based targeting

Display advertising on mobile opens up a whole host of opportunities that aren’t available on desktop, due to the amount of data that can be gathered on an audience and fed back into the campaign. Take for example location data, people are most likely to use their mobile whilst on the move, whether that’s scrolling through social media whilst on their daily train commute, or further researching a product they might be looking at in-store.

Using location data, brands can deliver timely and highly-relevant creative ads to encourage a user along a certain path. For example, with geo-fencing, brands can set a perimeter around a certain location and therefore target users with a mobile ad whilst they’re in the vicinity of a competitor’s store.

Finding the right moment

Advertising on mobile provides the opportunity to target a user with highly relevant content at precise moments where they are most likely to engage. With 70% of people using mobile devices whilst watching TV, there is a huge opportunity here for brands to increase frequency and engage users.

For example, brands can target users on their mobile with an ad at the same time as their TV ad is going out, maximising the impact of the brand’s message. Google’s research has also found that 2 in 3 consumers use their mobile to look something up that they’ve seen in a TV ad, providing an opportunity to serve personalised and consistent creative to users who search straight after your ad has gone out.

Using geo-data, it’s also possible for brands to target individual users at events or in particular moments; such as a concert, a sporting event or even just a shopping centre. By preparing creative beforehand, brands can also be reactive to moments – such as someone scoring a goal during a football match, to target individuals watching this with relevant and personalised ads on their phone.

Furthermore, brands can use mobile-specific signals like device make, model and phone carrier to target specific users. For example if you’re advertising an iPhone app, you’ll want to ensure you target only iPhone users.

Programmatic audio

Epiphany’s latest consumer behaviour research revealed that 50% of 18 to 24-year-olds use their mobiles to play music everyday, but this isn’t just a trend confined to the younger audiences. Nearly 80% of digital radio is consumed on mobile devices, and popular streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music have boosted the growth of the music industry this year.

Because individuals are unlikely to be listening to anything else whilst streaming music, radio or podcasts; audio gives brands the ability to advertise to a captive audience, who are likely to sit through the ads.

Audio advertising gives way to a wealth of customer data, too. With mobile devices and apps holding so much consumer data, audio advertisers are able to accurately measure the quantity of consumers who hear their ads, their demographic information and potentially, insights into what they do online post-listening

What to consider now

Format should be determined by the objective: Reaching your audience at different stages demands different approaches - the format should be determined by the objective and the audience, for example, if your objective is brand-building, video ads work well as they encourage engagement without a specific call-to-action.

Overlay data: Don’t forget that advertising on mobile opens up a vast array of new opportunities to overlay data such as location data and TV schedules, allowing you to serve ad creative that is highly-relevant and optimised to that moment.

Creative matters: Finding the right audience and the right moment is half the battle, serving content and creative that actually serves a purpose and engages the user is crucial. Again, this creative should be driven by the objective of the ad.

For brands, the key to reaching their audience is to become truly relevant and add value to the everyday moment in their customer’s lives; these moments are increasingly on mobile. To discover more about how to develop your mobile marketing strategy across all channels, download our free guide here.

Mobile Agency

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