Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

How mobile shook off its adolescence and began to justify its potential

By Handren Rasch, Head of Sales, Adverty

Like most media, mobile advertising has had to endure some difficult adolescent periods. It hasn’t been very pretty at times, and it has gone down some dead ends; its potential, while widely recognised, has sometimes been a bit hard to square with the half-formed reality. 

But nowadays, we can see plenty of examples that justify the promise of mobile. We see it in our own field of in-game advertising, and when we compare notes across the mobile ecosystem – as we did at the Adsider Conference in late May – it is clear that many of the same evolutions have happened across the board.

No-one needs to be reminded that consumers are spending more and more time on their mobiles, and that every brand has the opportunity to reach them there, if they know how. On my panel with Liz Duff, director of behavioural media agency Total Media, and Matthew Goldhill, CEO of premium mobile ad formats company Picnic Media, the question asked was how advertisers can do so successfully, and how to avoid being another bad brand for mobile users.

Needs to be native

And there is still plenty of bad out there. As Liz pointed out, website content exported thoughtlessly into mobile, with no consideration of mobile native behaviours such as swipes and taps, remains rife. Matthew, meanwhile, warned brands against signing up to anything that disrupts or slows down a user’s mobile experience and pointed out that the brands who excel in mobile are those that take advantage of mobile-specific technology.

Don’t be intrusive, don’t interrupt

This chimes perfectly with what we have learned in gaming. In our world, the gold-standard brand experiences are those that are unobtrusive to gamers, who, after all, play games in order to enjoy total escapism. So our aim is to build brand narratives into gaming experiences. Ads, so ubiquitous in real life, can add realism to virtual spaces. Bus sides, adshels, billboards in urban games add authenticity and put brands into the story without interrupting it.

Brands don’t need to intrude rudely into a gamer’s consciousness in order to make an impression, and the unique environments mobile gaming offers are part of the reason why that is true. While our ad inventory may not disturb the user, a brand can impact their visual parameters repeatedly throughout sessions that often last for more than 15 minutes. And in contrast to video or TV advertising, the brand is guaranteed to have completed views, since gamers do not turn their attention away from the screen during gameplay. 

Accurate data

The data aggregated during gameplay allows us to track precisely how many people saw each ad for how long, the total number of impressions. The same accuracy is not available on a standard television or video content. Unlike gaming, brands can never know if the user is watching the screen for the duration of the ad impression.

As Matthew pointed out, the brands who excel in mobile are those that take advantage of mobile-specific technology. Adding functionality that incorporates AR, VR, mobile camera filters and emerging technology native to mobile, has been shown to have a strong impact on users.

Metrics, too, are evolving. At Adsider, we seemed to be in agreement that every conversation should start with business outcomes. Instead of setting one measure of success, brands approaching mobile should pinpoint a variety of touchpoints, from online sentiment to conversion metrics configured appropriately for each mobile channel. 

With all new technology, it takes time to educate brands to the value of new metrics, such as accurate viewable time, in comparison to clicks. But the fact that we are no longer imagining a mobile ad space that might one day work, and instead refining one that offers real results to brands, is the ultimate metric of how far we, as a collective industry, have already come.