Getting the Measure of Mobile
Mary Meeker’s lastest State of the Internet report describes a $20bn delta in the US alone between time spent on mobile and current ad spend. That same report also reveals that eCPMs and ARPU (Average Revenue Per User) are lower on mobile than on the desktop.
There are many theories and views as to why this is, and likely more than just one single reason. But there is one obvious issue: a distinct lack of metrics and analytics being made available to the brand – not just impressions and clicks, but deeper analysis of the data that attempts to measure brand engagement, and provides a mechanism for benchmarking.
Before the arrival of the WebKit browser, the lack of metrics was acceptable but today we are at a point where this is no longer an excuse - third party ad serving, the ability to uniquely identify users and HTML5 browsers help us work around these challenges. Any brand running mobile rich media today should demand a robust set of metrics from their vendor; not just impressions and clicks, but metrics that attempt to deliver a measure of engagement.
In order to justify the investment in rich media, brands need proof of the effectiveness of the medium. Empirical evidence is required to prove that taking money from the pot of the digital brand budget can deliver a change in brand sentiment, or at the very least some measure of engagement.
As a baseline, vendors delivering mobile rich media should provide the following metrics: interaction time; engagement rates; unique users; and frequency. But to really start providing insights into effectiveness, two critical elements are necessary: an attempt to measure user engagement; and the ability to provide a framework that benchmarks that performance against other campaigns in the same vertical.
Mobile can provide these metrics today, but we believe not every brand running rich media campaigns is getting the required data. There are several reasons for this. The first is independent mobile ad networks bundling in rich media based on a minimum buying commitment. When this happens, the creative is proprietary to the network, an independent audit of results is not available, and the ad units cannot be used across other ad networks. When there are no other networks involved, there is no ability to benchmark, and no ability to optimise performance. Even firing pixels from the online ad servers won't provide a measure of uniques or dwell time.
On the other hand, true third party ad-served rich media, that isn’t aligned to a particular network, provides an independent audit of performance. When campaigns are cross-network, the brand or agency can begin to see who’s performing and who’s providing the best interaction rates, and optimise the campaign accordingly.
The second problem is that there seems to be no agreement about what should be measured. This problem isn’t unique to mobile. Online measures vary between vendors, and each major player publishes a set of benchmark reports at regular intervals that differ slightly in their calculations. To a large extent, they are somewhat meaningless, and only reflect a market view from that vendor.
For online advertising, however, there are well-established measures of calculating engagement, such as unique users; frequency; and interaction or dwell time. If mobile rich media campaigns are being delivered today without these measures, then the industry is doing itself a disservice and we are not able to open up the bigger spends we’re waiting for. The good news is, however, that these measures are possible right now, and there’s no excuse for not providing them.
There are solutions available that offer a robust method for measuring mobile rich media, that are vendor-agnostic, and that can be implemented in any mobile rich media campaign, offering a scrutiny of network performance and early warning systems for under-performance and real-time decision-making.
By choosing a platform that is not aligned to a network or vendor, a wider view of the market can be gained for the purposes of benchmarking. Any brand can now get the key baseline metrics of unique user, frequency, interaction and engagement rates.
Our own engagement framework is available today and can be implemented inside any rich media ad unit, either through one of the self-service ad-builders, or a creative agency managing the build. It can be integrated within as little as 30 minutes and will begin to change the conversations we have with brands, based on real data and insights.
Jason Cooper is CEO of Simplytics