How to make mobile ads work for the consumer

Posted by Carolyn Bollaci On October 19, 2015

In advertising, the 6 second Vine video is the new 30 second commercial – well at least for the youth segment. The content format is fast, short and compelling.

For sure, how generation Z views and interacts with content today is a signpost towards the future of the mobile experience, and mobile advertising in particular.

Even for those outside this young demographic, mobile devices dominate our lives. We use them for everything – research, communication, shopping, utility information, entertainment, and general browsing. The modern digital brand needs to understand different audience behaviours, per type of screen and per screen size.

Research shows consumers are spending 39 days of the year, or three hours per day, on smartphones. So why are we still serving them crappy mobile ads? Why aren’t we making them engaging, creative and relevant for the environment in which they are served and seen? If we want to serve crappy ads, why don’t we just go back to pop-up ads? At least they were 100 percent viewable.

There is a gigantic gap between the high levels of consumer mobile usage and the low levels of marketing spend allocated to mobile. The advertiser’s ability to engage and inform users with innovative and engaging mobile ads has not matched the pace of change in consumer behaviour. As a result, there is a lot of wastage happening – a big rubbish chute of unseen and unimaginative mobile ads.

The full potential of mobile advertising has not yet been reached because there’s an overall lack of creativity within mobile. Many marketers are stuck in a desktop banner time-warp – where they try to force yesterday’s technology into today’s world rather than adopting a mobile-first approach, creating ads that fit organically within the mobile or tablet screen.
Let’s be honest, we are in the early stages of the new dawn of small-screen advertising. Our creative output, and approach, is still evolving. But ultimately, our goal should be the same as television advertising – we want consumers to say, ‘hey, that was a great ad, I enjoyed that experience, and I might even tell others about it’.

We have moved from Flash to HTML5 as a mobile ad building framework, because it enables advertisers to build dynamic, personalised ad experiences that work across screens. Currently, 23% of Flash impressions show back up images because the mobile device does not support this format. Shifting to HTML5 reduces this wastage and increases performance for advertisers.

Creativity alone won’t yield better results. An ad should be reaching the right audience, because no matter how great the creative is – if it’s not relevant to a potential customer then a purchase is unlikely. Today’s technology makes it possible for data and creativity to work hand-in-hand to ensure the right creative message is shown to the right consumer at exactly the right moment to drive a desired action.

To successfully capture the attention of today’s connected consumer, brands and agencies tmust consider the intricacies of mobile. What makes mobile unique is its tactile nature – the pinch, swipe and zoom features of the new touchscreen generation have made these gestures become second nature to us. This has major implications for how brands should build interactive mobile ads and content. To create an even richer experience, brands should consider allowing people to navigate within the ad itself. For the tap gesture, the best minimum touch size is 44 pixels. The scroll and drag feature is best used when reading large amounts of text. Typical uses for the pull and swipe features are expanding an ad, browsing a photo gallery or collapsing a panel.

Rich media and video are proven winners in engaging mobile users. The small screen requires more interactivity to take place after a consumer has been enticed to enter an ad. However, advertisers must think about designing for the moment, (often a micro-moment), that the consumer is experiencing. It’s no help to a consumer if they are served a heavy-bandwidth, high quality video ad if they are in a low bandwidth environment. Mobile ad design should take into account where an interaction is taking place, and how the ad can make it easy for them to take an action.

Consumers have accepted desktop and TV advertising – we now have to show them that mobile advertising content can be compelling and creative too.


Carolyn Bollaci