Why are we still making rubbish mobile ads?

Can you remember the last mobile ad you saw?

The truth is, you most likely don’t. You don’t need a Harvard MBA to understand the key reason for this: mobile ads suck, most of the time.

They appear all day, every day, on a device that is rarely ever out of our hands; it’s the first screen we look at, and often in Asia, our first and only screen. Yet despite their ubiquity, mobile ads make very little impact. Frankly, who likes them?

This is especially prevalent in this part of the world. In 2017, a PageFair study revealed that 94% of global mobile ad block users come from Asia-Pacific.

We know that roughly half of mobile ad clicks are accidental, and around 50% of ad impressions end up not delivered or not fully-loaded. It means that industrywide, human error is measured as a win. It also means that advertisers are wasting billions every year in ad spend.

So here we are with this dystopian vision: mobile ads are poor, and advertisers are getting ripped off. If we don’t act and quickly, the proverbial shit will hit the fan before we know it (pardon my French).

What we know about mobile ads:

  • Bad UX: Mobile ads in Asia are all too frequent, intrusive, annoying, and give little in the way of user experience. Most of the time what they do best is chew up data and slow down our browsers.
  • Dodgy measurement: We are aware that ad fraud prevails and accidental clicks are frequent, yet we stick to impression or click models. Are there no other alternatives than doggedly improving viewability measurements to reassure ourselves that what we’re doing is not pointless?

A great mystery to me is why in 2018, static banners are still being served to potential consumers. Even when these banners are not the size of a maggot, they still remain white noise that simply add up to an already overcrowded environment – and they will be forgotten in a heartbeat.

The great Confucius many centuries ago taught his disciples: “Tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I will understand”. I believe this should be the golden rule for mobile advertising. Even more so when we work with small canvases and address time-poor audiences: don’t just tell or show, but have the confidence to invite users to take part in short brand experiences that instill a memorable message. It’s not as if we lack the tools to create stunningly beautiful creative; our devices are packed with innovative technologies and are presented to us via bright hi-res screens, containing powerful haptic and gyro mechanics.

A pragmatic approach would be to charge advertisers on the first engagement – whether it is a tilt, a swipe, a shake - anything that constitutes a meaningful action - which is the proof that a user not only saw your message but decided to get involved. It makes total sense and defeats commonplace industry issues of ad fraud and viewability. However, somehow, it’s been overlooked – old habits die hard.

Now something interesting is happening. Regulations around data privacy and storage are becoming more rigid (GDPR in Europe, Facebook privacy issues), and marketer’s access to consumer data will be exponentially restricted.

So, this is our opportunity. This is our chance to refocus on what made advertising good in the first place. This is our time to connect the fundamentals with the brilliant technology in our pockets and hands. Beautiful, tactile and inviting creative can deliver impactful and special brand experiences. Creative optimisation is the way forward.

Asia Pacific audiences are the least responsive to mobile advertising, however, there is no other region in the world where consumers have a higher propensity of using their mobile devices: no need for fancy studies or numbers, just raise your head up from your screen and look around.

Providing value for consumers is the only way to hit home and create the kind of returns advertisers are crying out for. It’s time to make our messages – on the smartest platform we have ever had the privilege to work with – memorable.

Benjamin Pavanetto is head of APAC at Adludio.

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