Lisa Menaldo, managing director UK at Sublime Skinz, shares her vision for the transformation of mobile advertising in 2017.
For advertisers, 2016 has been a challenging year. as the realisation sets in that they need be more innovative than ever to deliver the ads users actually want to view and, ultimately, not block. After a decade of claims of 'the year of mobile', with the industry now determined to create a more meaningful user experience and thus reduce the need for ad blocking, perhaps the description for 2017 should be “the year of transformation of mobile advertising”.
The rise of mobile ad blocking
Recent reports suggest that mobile ad blocking has increased by a staggering 90 per cent since 2015, with one in five smartphone users installing software to eliminate or at least reduce unwanted ads. Furthermore, while mobile traffic is half that of desktop, mobile sites are currently blocked at three times the rate of desktop sites. Adoption of mobile ad blocking is currently greatest among emerging markets such as China, Indonesia, and Pakistan, although it will not be long before these levels are matched in the UK and the rest of Europe, especially as built-in ad blocking software becomes a standard feature of mobile browsers.
For too long, advertisers have been so preoccupied with the scope and sophistication of their digital campaigns that they have begun to lose sight of the consumers they are seeking to engage. As a result, internet service providers have started to intervene. In June 2016, global telecommunications provider Three implemented a network-level trial – for users who opted in – which blocked all ads on mobile websites and in-app for a 24-hour period. In addition, Google banned one of the industry’s long-established staple ad formats: the interstitial, which appears on-screen while the user waits for their chosen website to load.
If soaring ad block rates and industry intervention prove anything, it is that the need for personalised, creative campaigns that harness data insights and listen to users has never been greater. Meanwhile, publishers are concerned that a rise in ad blocking technology will undermine their traditional advertising-funded business model. However, if the dilemma remains unaddressed, mobile ad blocking could pose a serious threat to the media industry. So how can brands strike a happy medium to keep both publishers and consumers happy?
The transformation of mobile advertising
Before advertisers can address the way in which they interact with their audience, they must first consider the reasons for ad blocking. For some users, the content being served is simply irrelevant or dull. However, rich-media ads, especially autoplay ads which have prolonged loading times and take up significant amounts of bandwidth, are effectively robbing the user of both time and data costs.
At best a user will block that ad and forget about the brand; at worst they will become frustrated and develop ill feeling towards the brand and everything it represents. According to one study, 47 per cent agreed their mobile advertising experience was positive, and 39 per cent cited a negative experience due to irritating ad formats.
But the challenges that face advertisers do not need to be destructive and these testing times will only serve to bring about a positive change for the mobile advertising industry. We now need to work on improving these figures to ensure the majority of consumers enjoy their mobile browsing experience.
In 2017, the main aim will be to prevent ad blocking from gaining further traction, as we see the adoption of new, immersive yet unobtrusive ad formats. One such strategy will be to include parallex effects – these ensure banners are better integrated into the publisher content and propose a more aesthetic solution to consumers.
The user also has the option to view a full-screen brand panel for the ad, but only if the initial banner has piqued their interest. These new formats will ensure quicker-loading, cleaner-looking webpages which will improve the user experience and, therefore, the brand/consumer relationship.
Following industry standards
We will also see more marketers embracing industry-wide initiatives such as the IAB’s LEAN principles (Light, Encrypted, Ad choice supported, Non-invasive ads) to ensure ads provide a harmonious, non-disruptive mobile browsing experience. In addition, the IAB’s revised guidelines, which incorporate the LEAN principles and will be finalised by the end of 2016, will encourage more advertisers to completely rethink the formats they use.
The rise of mobile ad blocking has made the industry far more conscious of the needs of the consumer. It is now time for advertisers to step up to the challenges they face, put consumers at the heart of their campaigns, and make sure that 2017 is the year of transformation of mobile advertising.
Lisa Menaldo is managing director UK at Sublime Skinz