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Programmatic Evolution

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Chris Childs, UK MD at TabMo, considers whether advertisers are ready for the next generation of mobile programmatic technology. 

There is no shortage of figures highlighting the strength of mobile in Europe. Ooyala reports that 53 per cent of all online video plays are now on mobile, while Ofcom research shows that the smartphone is the most important device in the UK for getting online.

When it comes to advertising, Marin Software’s Q3 2015 Performance Marketer’s Benchmark report revealed that display ads on mobile outperformed their desktop equivalent for the first time. And programmatic is playing an increasingly important part in this: research carried out by the Internet Advertising Bureau at the end of last year revealed that almost two-thirds (64 per cent) of mobile display ads are traded using programmatic media-buying technologies.

DSP defined
For mobile advertisers, this signals a need to look at the specifics of programmatic mobile advertising and what it offers. The first question to consider is: what is a DSP (Demand Side Platform)?

Quite simply, it’s a piece of technology that automates the ad-buying process for media planning teams and so facilitates programmatic advertising. It enables advertisers to buy ad impressions across a range of publisher sites in a process that takes just milliseconds. Targeting goes far beyond demographics by including information such as (anonymized) previous browsing behaviour, and the user’s location.

Programmatic started out on desktop, but is now expanding rapidly into mobile as more digital budgets go mobile, reflecting the fact that we all, as consumers, spend more of our time, consume more content, and buy more goods and services, on our smartphones.

Mobile benefits
Mobile is a key tool for the advertiser because it allows them to accurately and efficiently target their key audience while they are at their most receptive.
The unique nature of mobile means that consumers can be targeted based on their location. For example, downloadable vouchers for a fast-food restaurant can be sent to someone who fits the target audience profile, when they are near an outlet.

Location can also be used as an indicator of a person’s habits and preferences to target them at a later date. If someone regularly visits golf courses, for example, it’s a sure sign of an interest in golf, and this can be used to target them at home in the evening, when they have more time to consider the ad and the offer, and potentially act on it.

Similarly, a mobile user located in the business lounge of an airport during the week can be identified as someone likely to be a business user, and so served an ad for a high-end finance brand.

Getting mobile right
Brands need to invest time and energy to benefit from the new generation of mobile advertising technology. Consumers do not like bad advertising (witness the rise in ad blocking and the column inches devoted to it) on their desktop computer. On their smartphone, widely regarded a much more personal device, it is viewed as even more intrusive. With that in mind, what are the key points for prospective mobile advertisers to consider?

Mobile-first
Perhaps the key point around which everything else hinges is that not all mobile DSPs are created equal. To be precise, very few are built specifically for mobile. Instead they are developed as an ‘add-on’ to technology platforms initially build for desktop and digital TV advertising. Cross-channel platforms may not deliver the best possible mobile experience for the user – and therefore don’t drive results for the advertiser.

TabMo’s founders recognised that mobile advertisers needed a programmatic platform that focused solely on meeting the specific demands of this channel. Our technology has been built from the ground up at our R&D development centre in Montpelier, which has become something of a hub for ad tech companies with the likes of Teads and StickyAds also developing their solutions there.

And from day one, everything we have done has hinged around what works for mobile, from building mobile-specific technology, to ensuring that creative can match location and context, to understanding that someone using their mobile has different expectations to a person using their desktop computer or watching TV.

Creative counts
It is increasingly recognised that not only can creativity co-exist with programmatic, but that it has a key role to play. This is all the more so with mobile because precise, location-based targeting is useless if the creative does not match the context.

Revisiting the airport business lounge example mentioned earlier, with location determining both mindset and need, the high-end finance provider can serve a suitable piece of ad creative. If the brand targets the same user during his or her leisure time, it is highly likely that a different creative treatment will be more effective.
Programmatic mobile ad platforms must therefore have the capability to support the targeting decisions and auto-optimisations they make with the right creative.

This includes handling the TV vs. mobile issue. Although there is an understandable need to get ROI from big-budget TV ads, the 30-second TV commercial is rarely appropriate if placed before a short piece of mobile video content. Marketers must be vigilant about the format of their mobile ads. This includes careful selection of the programmatic platform, which should be able to adapt the creative for the mobile screen, including converting it from TV’s landscape format to portrait style in order to offer the best viewing experience on mobile.

In addition, rapidly-advancing smartphone technology enables advertisers to include fun, interactive elements in a campaign. TabMo recently ran a campaign for a high-street retailer, for example, that encouraged users to move through the content pages by shaking their phones, rather than swiping the screen.

Demand-side transparency
As an increasing amount of mobile inventory is made available, it is essential that marketers have visibility and control over where their ad will appear. A key requirement therefore is that the DSP is transparent about how it buys its inventory - direct from the publisher or via an ad network for example. The days of ‘blind networks’ are disappearing and serious trust issues are raised if mobile advertisers can’t see which sites they are buying on.

Transparency is critical to ensure accurate targeting. It is also essential to ensure viewability and brand safety, issues that are as pertinent for mobile as for other digital advertising platforms. The mobile advertiser must be confident that the DSP has adequate measures in place to guard against unseen, unsafe or fraudulent inventory.

Programmatic technology is revolutionising the mobile advertising landscape. Used with care and respect for the user’s wishes, it holds the potential to serve advertising that is more engaging, more contextually relevant and, most importantly of all from the advertiser’s perspective, more effective. What’s not to like?

Chris Childs is UK MD at TabMo. This article first appeared in the February 2016 print edition of Mobile Marketing. You can read the whole issue here. 

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