The secrets of a great mobile ad experience

Mobile Marketing - Member Content

Matthew Goldhill, CEO of Picnic Media, says the mobile ad experience proves there’s more than one kind of disruption.

Disruption is nowadays one of those words that tends only to get used in a specific context: to describe the spectacle of established industries being helplessly feasted upon by some brutally simple digital innovation. But in our business, as a user-first ad marketplace that brings the premium experiences of social media to the open web, we find ourselves using it easily as often to bemoan the typical mobile ad experience.

As we see it, the mobile space has all the ingredients for creative, effective ad campaigns, just as it has plenty of high-quality, premium content. It’s just that you don’t often find the two in the same place.

On the advertising side, social networks like Instagram and Snapchat have more or less nailed it, with well-integrated, user-friendly, fast-loading ads that play their part with minimum – here it comes – disruption to user experience.
Meanwhile, premium publishers on the open web, for all their brilliant content, find themselves understandably tempted to maximise return by overloading their pages with too many oversized, clunky ad formats. And we all know how to describe the effect that has on user satisfaction.

Our self-imposed challenge is to populate the wider web inventory with the elegant efficiency of social media advertising, so we have spent a lot of time in recent years patiently breaking down the factors that make an ad work, or not. They’re rather simple, but more so in theory than in practice.

What makes a good user experience?
The most important thing is to offer the appropriate experience for the device. Social media platforms offer a slick, fast user experience that is entirely native to mobile. Any ad that doesn’t obey the same principles is doomed.

To extend the same point, it is instructive to look at any new experiences that catch fire, because they expand the possibilities for ads. Take TikTok: it doesn’t come with instructions, but it’s intuitive, based on forward/backward swipes. That sets the experience entirely apart from one you might have on a desktop, as it is designed for mobile only. That perfect union between what you’re offering and how people naturally consume is how you define a good experience.

What makes a bad ad experience?
Anything that disrupts that user experience, including content that is slow, or doesn’t load, or is hard to quit – such as a full screen ad with no exit.

A sense of old ways being dragged into new channels. Experience is more important on mobile, as it is tangible. Consumers don’t want to feel like they’re holding a tiny old computer which is often the case when taking a desktop format like “Skins” and forcing it onto mobile.

Accelerated Mobile Pages
This is the context behind our two formats, Posts and Stories, which run entirely on Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) technology, itself built to speed up the mobile web experience. We say “no” to a lot of what we’re offered, and we keep the user’s experience at the heart of everything, in the knowledge that this will lead to good performance.

It is another sign of the times, incidentally, that we no longer need to badge ourselves as a “mobile” ad provider, just as social networks don't talk about their mobile audiences. We're delivering our ads in a niche of mobile, but mobile is no longer a niche channel – in fact, it has far higher scale, relevancy and engagement than desktop. That’s because of user experience, and that is why we’ll continue to build products that not only drive great results for advertisers and increase revenue for publishers but also guarantee the user has a high quality experience.