Effective mobile ads means going native

It seems like we have been at the tipping point of mobile advertising becoming a serious player to marketers for a long time, but the latest figures from our good friends at the IAB and PWC should give us all some serious food for thought. We learnt that mobile advertising has continued its meteoric rise, growing like-for-like by 132% to £181.5 million in the first half of 2012.

Mobile now accounts for 7% of all digital ad spend and it has become increasingly important in the marketing mix as UK smartphone ownership has now reached 58%. However, the question remains today as it did 5 years ago – how can advertisers go further and truly build brand engagement on the most personal device we own.

One channel of thinking centres upon the way brands capture the attention of the consumer. For so long the traditional banner ad has worked on the majority of digital formats, a one size fits all approach works for the brand, the publisher and the consumer. Yet too often on mobile, advertisers have merely shrunk existing assets to best fit the screen size.

‘Best fit’ – just think about that for a moment. Sounds like an expression that sits comfortably alongside ‘average’ and ‘passable’ in my lexicon of media words to avoid. Words, I am equally convinced, that are absent from client side briefs to their media agencies today.

In an era where, as consumers, our attention is finite and the average consumer sees hundreds of ads a day, it is important that marketing investment isn’t wasted on creating banner ads that have a negative impact. I say negative not to be provocative – but more from a basis that consumers only click on 1 in a 1000 at most and our own recent quantitative research suggested that banner ads are the least appreciated by the Tapjoy audience.

Native advertising is one solution.  Native advertising is said to be the difference between an annoying salesman (think banner ads) and a brand offering itself up to you in a friendly and unobtrusive way (think promoted tweets as an example).  The important thing about native advertising is that it is part of the experience and isn’t disruptive. The brand message merges seamlessly with your personal experience.

Advancements in technology have added new tools to the marketer’s arsenal, notably HTML5 for mobile. Most importantly this tech enables advertising to be less of an intrusion and become part of the media experience.  These new technologies allow the ad to be seen as entertainment and adds value. In my previous role we were often told by our users that the profiled and segmentedMMSbased ads we served were not annoying and were indeed part of the content experience they so enjoyed.

In theUK, smartphone owners spend more time playing games than making phone calls – by making an ad part of that fun it will have a much more rewarding result for the brand.  Rather than just sitting alongside, or even worse, over the top, of this content in a way which is disruptive to the experience, it will become part of it and that creates a more positive reaction.

In my role I encourage clients to be consumers first, marketers second, and think about how they, themselves use their mobile.  Banner ads are increasingly seen as a nuisance and we all have experience of wrongly clicking when seeking to get rid fast. Equally the media planners and buyers need to be brave.  Banner adverts have traditionally been viewed as a safe digital advertising option but this needs to change for mobile.  The industry needs to stop thinking about the ways of old and start thinking about how they themselves consume content.  On mobile a banner ad is only ever intrusive; this means advertising spend is easily wasted and a brand message fails to engage the consumer. If the advert becomes part of the experience the message is much more likely to resonate positively and that is a winning situation for the brand and the consumer.

Chris Bennett, Director of Sales, Tapjoy.