Why creativity on mobile matters – and how to get it right

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The smartphone is becoming the most popular marketing channel of all.

This is the year that digital advertising spend will finally topple its traditional counterpart.

According to research from eMarketer, 2019 digital ad revenue in the US – a market which usually leads the way in the western world – will make up 54.2% of total advertising dollars, compared to traditional’s 45.8%. And mobile makes up more than two thirds of digital, with a predicted US ad spend of $87.06bn in 2019.

With the small screen becoming increasingly important for advertisers, where does this leave creativity? Of course, the mobile screen isn’t an experience with cinematically epic scale, but this isn’t an excuse to lapse into the lazy creative that we so often see in mobile, running the risk of turning consumers off rather than pulling them in. Or, worse, being totally ignored. Marketers, playing in this delicate personal space, need to work much harder.

Digital backlash

Frankly, digital advertising deserves its poor reputation. Whereas brand activations and content on social media are becoming increasingly more creative, display still isn’t good.

It’s always been rare for pop-ups and banners that prolifically appear over content to be entertaining or valuable. This led to people actively looking to get rid of them with the introduction of ad blockers. But can you blame them? So, as a result, we’ve come full circle as the very existence of ad-blockers has increased the negativity towards digital.

Given this backlash, marketers are frequently over-cautious on digital channels, favouring an approach that’s more apologetic than bold. This doesn’t cut it either. We all need to recognise there is a big difference between “annoying” and “arresting” – and obviously we should be aiming for the latter.

Thumb-stopping content

Of course, it’s important to be a little considerate. Digital – and specifically mobile – content is living in a much more personal space than traditional ads. It’s in your hand – it doesn't get much closer than that. But considerateness shouldn’t be the gold standard.

Because great digital content shouldn’t sit meekly in the background. The phrase ‘thumb-stopping’ has become a cliche but there’s so much truth in it. Audiences are idly scrolling, looking for something that interests them, on channels that, more often than not, they’ve curated themselves. And we are in competition with that.

So digital has to catch people’s attention – like OOH, it has to deliver key messages in a short moment.

Disruption vs distraction

Amp up the visuals. Get in their face. Don’t be afraid to try and show consumers something they’ve never seen before. Disrupt their experience. Be the distraction. Pull them, kicking and screaming if you have to, into your brand’s story. Build a narrative through punchy, simple and concise content that can keeps the viewer looking out for more. Remember when all advertising aimed to do that?

With bigger budgets and digital’s growing importance in the marketing mix, it’s time to grow up. The detail on mobile, the high resolution and the proximity to people’s faces matter. The ability to pinch and zoom in and look even closer on mobile screens means that work is held under even more scrutiny. We need to start holding our advertising to a higher standard.

Mark Freeman is creative partner at Movement

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