Make the most of the mobile opportunity

Andrew Buckman, managing director, EMEA at Sublime, argues that mobile is no excuse for a lack of creativity.

Mobile is the new black, in online connectivity terms, with almost three-quarters of global users expected to access the internet exclusively via mobile by 2025, according to the GSMA. According to WARC, the average smartphone user already spends more than three hours per day using mobile internet and, with technological advances such as the imminent arrival of 5G, consumers are only going to become more dependent on their devices for online activities.

Brands and agencies understand the magnitude of the mobile opportunity and are investing heavily with mobile ad spend reaching almost $138bn worldwide last year, according to WARC, equivalent to $35.56 per user. And mobile advertising growth will continue to accelerate, expected to reach a compound annual growth rate of almost 13 per cent by 2022, according to Research and Markets.

But despite high levels of spend, brands and agencies aren’t necessarily making the most of the mobile opportunity with their creative strategies. There is a perception that mobile is restrictive, with small screens providing limited advertising real estate. And with low attention spans, concerns over data use, and battery life, ad load must be kept to a minimum.

Yet none of these apparent restrictions prevent brands and agencies delivering original, engaging mobile advertising. Far from being an excuse for a lack of imagination, the interactive, always-on, highly personal nature of mobile devices opens up opportunities for brands and agencies to embrace creativity.

Immersing users in the brand experience
The touch-screen functionality of mobile devices makes them the perfect vehicle for interactive messaging that immerses the user in the brand story and allows them to influence their own experience. When agency professionals in the US were asked by eMarketer which in-app ad formats were the most effective, formats that actively involved the user such as playables and interactive ads came top of the list, followed closely by rewarded or opt-in videos and rich media ads. Standard static banners ads, shrunk to fit the mobile screen, are unlikely to have an impact on today’s mobile users.

To make the most of mobile, brands and agencies can adopt interactive ad formats specifically designed for mobile, incorporating features from slideshows and videos to 360-degree product views and store locators. Mobile users may have relatively short attention spans, but by providing compelling experiences that audiences can actively engage with, rather than just passively observe, brands can increase their share of that attention.

Spinning a sequential brand story
Brands have less time to make an impact with mobile advertising than with other channels; six-second mobile video ads are more effective than 30-second recycled TV commercials in driving results at all levels of the funnel. Advertisers might feel this limited timeframe doesn’t provide much opportunity to get the brand message across, but they shouldn’t forget that mobile can be just one element of a multi-channel, coordinated campaign.

Brands and agencies can use shorter, high impact mobile moments to supplement and reinforce more in-depth messaging delivered via desktop, TV or even out-of-home. Techniques such as message sequencing and frequency capping can be used to ensure the brand’s story unfolds gradually, building interest and recognition, without bombarding the user with repetitive ads.

Responding to individual context and needs
Programmatic allows mobile advertising to be targeted to specific audience segments who are likely to be most receptive to its messaging, enabling increased relevance and efficiency. But in addition to targeting, brands and agencies also need to think about tailoring ad creatives to the individual needs and context of the user to deliver a truly personalised experience.

The importance of understanding context is highlighted by a recent survey conducted by Aki Technologies, which reveals that consumers are more receptive to mobile advertising when they are at home watching TV or in bed before they go to sleep, than when they are shopping, exercising or running errands. An understanding of context can help advertisers reach users not only with the right message, but also at the opportune moment.

Smartphones produce a wide range of data signals, from device and connection type to time and location. This information, when combined with interest and behavioural data, can provide an in-depth picture of the user’s immediate needs, which brands and agencies can respond to with their messaging. Using technologies such as dynamic creative optimisation, advertisers can combine different elements such as background images, product images, calls to action, videos, and special offers to produce almost endless creative iterations and deliver a tailored ad experience at the most impactful time.

Optimising ads for mobile devices
There are plenty of innovative mobile optimised ad units available, so brands and agencies can look for particular features to make their messaging creative more effective. First, the touch screens of smartphones make it easy to click on an ad in error, so advertisers should look for formats which are activated by more definite actions, such as a swipe, that are harder to make accidentally. Second, mobile users become quickly frustrated with ads that block access to content, or take over the entire screen without being activated, so advertisers should look for less intrusive formats.

Imagine, for instance, a sticky ad that remains in view without blocking content as the user scrolls, and only expands when they choose to engage with it or reach the bottom of the page. Finally, smartphone users naturally hold their devices vertically, rather than horizontally, so advertisers should choose formats designed for the vertical viewing experience. For video ads this means shooting the creative vertically to achieve the right ratio, rather than cropping a horizontally filmed TV ad.

Mobile isn’t a passing trend, it’s a way of life, and to get the best return on their mobile advertising spend, brands and agencies need to rethink their creative strategies. Mobile isn’t an excuse for a lack of creativity, it’s an opportunity to embrace interactive, responsive formats, optimised specifically for mobile, that involve the user in an evolving brand story.