In mobile advertising, consent is the new transparency

Andy Chandler, vice president for EMEA at Tapjoy, explores how the relationship between advertisers and consumers is changing, and why game publishers are so ahead of everyone else.

Transparency is at the top of the list when it comes to advertiser’s priorities for 2018. They want – no, they practically demand – to know exactly where their ads are being run, how much they cost, and what measurable results they can expect from their ad dollars. In fact, many of the world’s largest advertisers have threatened to boycott publishers who are unable provide the type of transparency they crave. Ironically, many of the same advertisers demanding transparency from their ad partners do not in turn provide transparency to consumers.

In 2018, user consent is the most important form of transparency that exists. If advertisers and consumers are to forge honest, open and direct relationships, it must start with both parties laying their cards on the table and showing what they have to offer as it relates to their role in the value exchange. For advertisers, that means explaining what they want (whether it’s for the consumer to watch a video, complete a survey, make a purchase, etc.), and what they’re willing to offer in return (for example, access to premium content or some type of in-app reward). For consumers, it means acknowledging that, yes, I’m interested in hearing, learning or seeing more.

With traditional forms of advertising, there is no clear consent established. Ads are simply imposed upon the consumer, creating a relationship between advertiser and consumer such that it breeds mistrust, which often leads to deception. Advertisers that take part in these practices are akin to an annoying guest at a dinner party who is trying to shout over other conversations in order to be heard. With value exchange advertising, by contrast, the advertiser is like a guest who listens patiently while someone finishes their conversation and waits for their turn to speak.

Mobile developers understood this dynamic early on and integrated value exchange ads a way to support freemium apps. They didn’t force advertisements on their users, but rather created a space where their users could choose to engage with ads in exchange for in-app rewards, such as premium content or in-game currency. Consumers chose when and how to engage with ads, on their own terms.

While game publishers were busy turning the traditional advertising model on its head, most other digital publishers tacked on ads as an afterthought. The ads therefore were not additive or complementary to the user experience – in fact, they were downright disruptive. Many publishers are still trying to recover from these mistakes to find an ad-supported model that is both accepted by consumers and that complements the user experience.

Meanwhile, game publishers are reaping the rewards of an early bet on the value exchange model. The consent that is inherent to this model provides an ideal way for advertisers to grab consumers’ attention and then convert that attention into meaningful dialogue or action.

In order to gain access to in-app rewards, a consumer might gladly watch a video ad for something that interests them, such as a movie trailer. The movie studio can then follow the trailer with an interactive end card inviting the consumer to purchase tickets to the movie. This experience is much less jarring and disruptive than a pre-roll video the consumer is forced to watch — and much more effective. That helps explain why consumers feel nearly four times more positive towards rewarded mobile app ads than they do towards pre-roll ads.

When the value exchange between advertisers and consumers is clear — when consumers know what to expect from advertisers and what they will receive in return for their time or attention — they are more willing to give that time or attention willingly. This consent then becomes the foundation of a trusting relationship. Gone are the days when advertisers could barrage their consumers with messaging and expect them to not feel put off. In 2018, however, advertisers can expect that once they gain consumers’ consent, their trust and positive brand affinity can’t be far behind.

As the recent kerfuffle regarding Facebook and Cambridge Analytica shows, the consumer experience absolutely has to start with consent. And that consent will only be granted if advertisers are 100 per cent transparent about what they want from consumers and what they’re willing to offer in return (access to premium content, in-app rewards, etc.).

When advertisers learn to give consumers the same level of transparency that they demand from publishers, consumers will begin to trust ads again and give their permission more readily. Only then can advertisers expect to forge meaningful relationships with their audiences.

Andy Chandler is the vice president for EMEA at Tapjoy.