Havas Media on multichannel ad campaigns and the future of mobile ads

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TabMo Monthly Mobile SpotlightMobile advertising company TabMo works with some of the worlds biggest brands to help them engage their audiences across mobile devices. Its DSP, Hawk, automates the process of buying mobile inventory and provides access to mobile data sources, geo-targeting technology and advanced mobile tracking solutions. TabMo provides creative support to ensure brands are communicating with their customers as effectively as possible. Through Hawk, advertisers can also activate digital out of home, connected TV and audio campaigns to further enhance their mobile advertising activity. 

Each month we sit down with a leading industry figure to hear their thoughts on the mobile advertising market, how brands are currently using mobile and what we can expect from the future. 

Here we talk to Alex Boniface, digital client partner at Havas Media, about what is needed to increase the number of advertising campaigns that are integrated across the different channels and his visions for the future.

Alex Boniface Havas MediaQ. Advertising campaigns that are integrated across the different channels would seem an obvious way forward, so why are we not seeing more of this?

The first reason of course is budget – not every advertiser can afford to run a multi-channel campaign that stretches both on and offline. In those instances, channels are chosen based on their affinity to an audience, or for that channel’s ability to achieve a required objective.

However, if we are to assume that budget isn’t something that determines channel selection then there are two elements blocking the path.

The first centres around knowing whether you reached the same person across different channels, while the second focuses on the need to change advertiser perceptions about the relationships certain audiences have with devices.

Q. Where do you think we are in terms of reaching the same person with an ad across the various different touchpoints?

The need for a Universal ID is already much-discussed in the trade press, but we may as well reference it again here because it’s not a conversation that’s going away anytime soon.

Post-GDPR, data portability in the ad-tech ecosystem is even more messy and complex than it was before. Ad spend across the duopoly (Facebook and Google) continues to increase at dramatic rates, mainly driven by their unrivalled access to first party data. This was great, for a while. You had amazing targeting and the ability to follow consumers from one platform through to another. However, as a result of GDPR, data no longer flows out of those platforms and into independent third parties for measurement (resulting in the demise of some of these third parties).

Brands looking to grow that are primarily investing their budget in exercises to drive awareness are rightly concerned about this as it effectively eliminates their ability to maintain frequency cross-channel. We’re stuck between a rock and hard place – we need to invest marketing spend where the audiences are but no longer have the ability to know whether it works.

As a result, more money goes to the duopoly and advertisers’ campaigns become increasingly siloed; a miserable outcome driven not because it works best for the brand or the consumer, but by necessity. The unintended consequence of GDPR therefore is that the duopoly continues to dominate and consumers receive increasingly impersonal, irrelevant and non-contextual messaging with high frequency.

To achieve true integration between channels, we must continue to persevere in our quest to adopt a Universal ID. Until we do so, Facebook and Google will continue their domination of marketing budgets and smaller publishers will continue to operate in a heavily one-sided playing field. Companies like The Trade Desk and the Ad ID Consortium have made great strides in this area, while the widespread adoption of Consent Management Platform technologies have also helping to increase cookie syncing across the ecosystem. However, we won’t ever see true integration until the duopoly plays ball.

Q. What do advertisers need to remember when thinking about how best to talk to their audiences in this complex digital world?

As marketers we are all guilty of acting like we don’t live in the real world. We come into work, put on our marketing hats and behave as if everything can be boiled down to a collection of data points, as if the richness and depth of each one of our lives are so mundane, we can be segmented and sold and targeted in a DSP. As a result, we end up saying things like “let’s run this campaign on mobile because it indexes high for students”, or, “let’s run this one on desktop during the day because we need to reach people in offices and everyone is ready and waiting at 12pm to see one of our ads”.

We forget how widespread smartphone adoption is. We omit to acknowledge how digitally-savvy older generations have become. We neglect to remember that the idea of a traditional funnel has been completely eroded by our un-paralleled access to information, on any device, whenever we want it.

It’s much more interesting to think about the context of each channel: TV is a shared viewing experience where you are ‘leaning-in’ to the content. Desktop is somewhere you go to work and don’t want to be distracted; mobile is something hugely personal, but that increasingly serves as a utility device more than anything else.

To see more campaigns run across a wider variety of channels we have to rid ourselves of these pretences and behave like normal human beings again.

Q. What role do you see mobile playing as we look for greater integration between the advertising channels?

Another interesting area is not so much about how channels are integrated, but focuses on using data or insight from one channel to fuel another. This is not by any means a new concept – but mobile seems to have cemented itself as the one platform that can ‘link’ the others together.

Location insights derived from mobile app data can be used to plan out-of-home (OOH) for example, while first party Device ID data can be uploaded to an audience planning tool to understand which spots to buy in a TV campaign. Using Snap or other AR-enabled codes to connect print, point-of-sale (POS) or even Consumer Packaged Goods to digital targeting or measurement platforms.

The issues around Universal IDs or the duopoly’s grip on data portability may prevent us from returning to the good-ol’ days of probabilistically-targeted multi-channel campaigns (RIP). However, the burgeoning field of data-fuelled media planning is certainly an interesting one – and an area that should ultimately lead to better ad experiences for the all-important consumer.

Q. What technology are you most excited about and why in terms of its impact on (mobile) advertising? How will screen sizes impact what is possible for example? What does the 5G future look like?

I think the biggest trend we’ll start to see over the next few years will be the blurring of what ‘mobile’ really means. We’ve seen the industry start to flirt with this idea with things like smart watches, Google’s Lens product and even some of the AR products coming out from LeapMotion and Oculus Go. However, it’s early days – consumer adoption of these technologies has been low, and for all the fanfare around VR and AR, I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of really convincing applications.

Although these technologies have yet to embed themselves naturally in our daily behaviours, once they do, we will undoubtedly see a seismic shift in the way advertisers choose to engage with consumers. The trick, however, will be avoiding the gimmicks. Just because you can make an AR ad unit, doesn’t mean you should. Just because you can build an app that allows users to run around in some kind of virtual environment, doesn’t mean it’s what consumers are demanding. We just want things that are simple, that work, that seamlessly integrate with our lives and make them just that little bit easier.

It feels that the ‘future of mobile’ is less about how big or how bright or how colourful our screens can get, but what we can to do escape from the confines of a screen altogether. Voice is a really great example of this – consumer adoption, in this case, has been profound. It feels like everyone got an Amazon Echo for Christmas. But has voice technology really embedded itself in our daily lives? No. I suspect most people are simply using them as a Bluetooth speaker; the number standing in their kitchen every evening saying, “Alexa, what’s the best way to cook rice?” is pretty limited I imagine.

But the improvement of screen technology isn’t what I think will be really interesting; rather it’s how cheap screen manufacturing will become. Add to that the utopian/dystopian (insert your own view as desired) impact that 5G will have on the ability to connect the world around us – and our screen-dependent existences might change.

To set the scene, think of the last time you got a new smartphone – you would have transferred your entire digital existence through a cloud back-up to the new device within minutes. Instantly your old phone loses all emotional value. You went from protecting it with your life to not caring if it went under the wheels of a bus. We already live in a world of transient technology, but the confines of hardware will be superseded still further by mechanics like the cloud and fast mobile data that will transport us into a truly virtual, connected environment. The ‘device’ – a 5-inch, £1000 piece of glass in our pockets – loses its shine; value is transferred to software; to the cloud – and to our ability to interact with the world around us in ways that are still mainly the domain of vivid imaginations and science fiction.

Q. Are we heading for a world without phones…?

Imagine an environment where we are not tied to the phones in our pocket. Screens are everywhere – in pubs, restaurants and bars, in lifts, along escalators, on cupboard doors, even built seamlessly into the walls of offices – all of which you can engage and interact with.

You’re at a bus stop and need to check an email – just flick your digital presence onto the screen you’re sitting next to. You’re at an interview and want to show your job history – ‘log in’ to the wall and get your LinkedIn profile up. That doesn’t even have to happen from a phone – your entire digital existence would be stored online and activated through a chip embedded somewhere on your person.

Traditional smartphone hardware loses all value. Device IDs and unique identifiers are no longer an issue. We exist online and can appear on any device or screen anywhere in the world at any time. The ad opportunities could be incredible – but try attributing a sale in DCM back to an impression served in one of these new environments!

Q. What challenges does this future face?

There are other growing trends we can’t ignore. Screen-time is now a huge issue and has formed part of the daily public conversation. (“Awesome, I only spent 15 hours on social media last week, down 13 per cent!”).  Mental health issues associated with phone addiction are tied to increasing public awareness about how we should better treat ourselves, as well as others around us.

From a business perspective, consumers are ad-blocking, GDPR has limited data portability, and we are moving into increasingly ad-free environments and trying to find new ways to connect. Privacy is now something about which the general public is acutely aware. How will that play out in a 5G world? Digital detoxes are growing in popularity. People are deleting their Facebook accounts. Some are even buying ‘brick’ phones to help focus their attention – perish the thought!

Where does all this go? It’s difficult to say at the minute. Screens and data will only become more ubiquitous in our lives, that I can guarantee – but we could start to see some push back. Tribes could form – ‘Screenists’ would embrace our connected world, almost to religious fervour, whilst ‘Screxiteers’ will embrace the values a disconnected and data-free world can provide.

Thanks Alex for some great insight. The role of mobile in integrating other channels is an interesting one; it shows how far mobile has come from being a digital ‘add on’ just a few years ago.

This is something TabMo has also recognised as we continue to develop our own platform Hawk. Until we do solve the Universal ID conundrum, how can mobile link other connected channels together? And how can the consumption of our mobile media dictate our strategies across other channels?

It will be interesting to see how well the industry is able to execute integrated campaigns in the short term. Certainly delivering via one platform should help to make this more efficient.

Meanwhile, the ‘Minority Report’ vision of the future, where everything has the potential to be a screen, is a fascinating prospect in terms of both the challenges and opportunities it presents.

Of course, we already have several more viable communication screens than we did ten years ago.  As they have developed, a key objective for TabMo is optimising creatives across these different interfaces; what works on a laptop may be ignored on a smartphone or tablet for example, and vice versa.  Creative technologies, such as dynamic creative optimisation (DCO) for example, have made huge strides in distributing alternative versions of an ad to different screens.  However, there is still no substitute for human input – ultimately, it’s creative minds that know instinctively which message should go where.