Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

The lure of the small screen: mobile takes centre stage in multi-channel advertising

By Shanil Chande, head of agency sales at TabMo UK

Mobiles have become the control panel to our lives whether we like it or not. They’re likely to be the first thing we check when we wake up and the last thing we look at before we go to bed.

This ubiquity, combined with their highly personal nature (meaning one-to-one messaging is a reality), makes advertising on mobiles (via Device ID data) incredibly powerful.

The opportunities

Our ever-increasing reliance on our phones during the past decade has opened up a wealth of targeting options over and above the location advantage most traditionally associated with mobile; much of this is due to the sheer amount of data that this burgeoning usage generates. Some of these data sources will have reduced during the pandemic, with historical location data being a good example as people stay at home. The majority of sources, however, will have either retained or increased in scale as the average number of hours spent on our mobiles continues to grow year-on-year.

But it is the ability of mobile to connect with other screens in ways we haven’t seen before that is increasingly seeing our ‘pocket computers’ punch above their weight in the advertising mix. Essentially this is because data use is not limited to mobile; it can also inform other channels to make them more efficient. (Geo) spatial data for example can be used to activate digital out-of-home (DOOH) campaigns using the Device IDs.

Harnessing the huge versatility of mobile and making it central to every campaign opens up a host of opportunities and allows marketers to unify their targeting across formerly siloed screens by providing the bridge between these environments. Conceptualising targeting in this manner puts the end user at the heart of the strategy and allows them to be reached at several points and on various channels.

Another one of these channels is audio, which needs to be recognised as a high-impact mobile ad format; mobile devices account for 80% of audio streaming and podcast listening, and most smartphones are now voice-activated. Audio is made even more compelling thanks to the ability to enhance and personalise ads further by overlaying mobile data and geo-targeting. Retargeting and frequency management between mobile display and audio messaging takes this to an even higher level as brand metrics can be dramatically increased through cross-channel messaging.

The caveats

Even though mobiles can connect screens, it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. OOH for example will always be a one-to-many medium and brands need to account for the nuances when activating campaigns that connect OOH with mobile.

Advertisers also need to have control over the frequency and sequence in which ads are shown to a user across different channels. Campaigns need to be engaging and not intrusive (nobody wants to be stalked…). (Buyer) control is vital and paying close attention to what the user experience actually looks like is extremely important. (TabMo’s Hawk platform gives control over the cross-channel ads being shown to consumers – content, channel, context, etc.)

In addition, we know through the work we have done in our studio since day one how important it is to ensure that the creative strategy runs in parallel with data and targeting tactics. Ads (the creative) can be tailored for each channel; sequential messaging if done right can be very powerful, with dynamic advertising helping to ensure the message has relevance to that person at the time that they see it.

And it goes without saying that accountability and measurement are key. Desktop performance metrics don’t necessarily equate for mobile because consumption of the channels is so different. Broadening the definition of performance to take this into account is one option, and ensures the horizons of mobile-based advertising are not limited. Focusing on the desired outcome for a specific campaign for example and looking at metrics that align with those Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) is potentially more insightful than clicks and views which, while important, don’t always give the whole picture..

Privacy changes and challenges

The forthcoming removal of third party cookies from most browsers means that advertisers need to consider the currency of data they are using and potentially pivot their strategies to adapt in order to continue to reach audiences efficiently. Contextual and semantic targeting will be one option, but Device IDs and Universal IDs will also pave the way forward.

Apple’s iOS 14 changes provide users with more power and transparency as to when their data is used; each individual app needs to gain specific consent to access a user’s location – rather than this permission being consigned to the depths of users’ ‘settings’. The change follows the trend we’ve seen in recent years of giving control back to users. It shouldn’t lead to a massive reduction in data (providing there is a justifiable reason for an app to access a user’s location) and will ensure that trust can be built in the era of ‘big data’.

More than mobile

Mobile has transformed from being considered as an ‘add on’ to online advertising campaigns to increasingly playing a central role in brands’ marketing strategies. Helped by data and technology advances that make mobile more than the sum of its parts, along with the rapid rise in consumption amongst audiences, the most pivotal part of a multi-channel advertising campaign is more and more likely to be the smallest screen.