A Blog by Jonathan Low


Aug 10, 2013

What's The Matter With Mobile Ads?

'We're not worthy.' One of the memorable lines from the movie Wayne's World captured, before its time, the state of consumers' and providers' problems with mobile advertising. 

We have been provided access to powerful technology which enables movement, freedom and opportunity. But we can't quite figure out just yet how to capture its value.

The issues, as the following article explains, are due, in part to our own lofty expectations for instantaneous returns - in several senses.

As consumers we eschew anything that does not enhance our drive for greater convenience. The problem is that the synching of mobile technology and advertising has shown us the promise but not yet delivered the result inherent as a logical conclusion: we can not usually click on something we like, then have it purchased and delivered. So we are frustrated with the 'kludgyness' of the medium because it did not quite make real the implied simplicity of its promise.

As providers, of course, we have fed this commercial attention deficit disorder by reinforcing the notion that consumers should expect such treatment. But providers, too, have fallen prey to the complications lodged in the myriad transactions and interfaces required to bring the imagined to the expected. Providers also think customers should be able to click and buy. Design, display and advertising are imposed on a still evolving system not yet engineered to make fantasies real.

So those attuned to the potential of mobile commerce on either side of the transaction are victims of their own inflated expectations. But until those doing the selling reframe the message, this miasma of disappointment will prevail. Because those doing the buying have seen the promise and they want it. JL

David Bussin comments in Venture Beat:

There’s an ongoing conversation about the quality and success of mobile advertising that has struck nerve with a lot of people. It’s quickly devolved into an argument about for the root cause of mobile advertising’s lackluster performance.
A layer of underlying panic and defensiveness defines the conversation, driven by the clash of lofty expectations and waning patience. When will mobile ads reach their promised potential? Can they ever, relying on technologies that change as fast as the way consumers use them?
Any storm clouds in mobile advertising’s forecast aren’t the fault of the constantly evolving technology the ads are served on, or the unpredictable behavior of consumers being handed that technology at an overwhelming pace. They’re the fault of marketers failing to effectively account for either.
Mobile devices can handle a seemingly limitless number of tasks, and they’re bringing new screens into new places and contexts. And tracking users and delivering ads is only going to improve. But despite the promise of mobile, marketers consistently struggle with implementing new technologies into mobile campaigns, and more importantly, struggle with making mobile a cohesive part of the marketing mix.

Mobile is more than direct response

One of the largest causes of frustration is an overly intense focus on measuring the direct response (DR) success of a mobile campaign. Marketers too often default to measuring only DR and inevitably run campaigns around the assumption that it is mobile’s one and only value. Of course, the performance potential is high, but the most effective mobile campaigns are cross-platform and branding conscious.
When marketers allow themselves to be confined to DR-only mobile strategies they can forget that other user experiences are important, even if more difficult to measure. Mobile devices are home to some of our most intimate moments and there’s a huge amount of untapped branding potential there. The challenge is in finding the right mix of engagement and call to action.

Mobile is about more than just the tech

Another crux for marketers has been the fickle and fast-changing nature of the technology that makes delivering mobile ads possible in the first place. Some of us have the bad habit of jumping on any new technology that arises. We’ve all seen short-sighted and messy attempts at QR code ads, bad mobile banner ads, and other awkwardly executed ideas. Being on the leading edge is important, and it drives a lot of the innovation in marketing, but haphazardly trying to implement any and all new technology has given mobile a bad name. Of course results seem unpredictable and disappointing when the execution is nothing more than an experiment.

Mobile’s about the cross-channel experience

Hand-in-hand with the curveballs thrown by changing technology has been frustration with predicting if and how consumers will use it: just look at the poor execution of campaigns using new technologies – like NFC, geo-fencing and check-ins. People are using their devices in nearly every situation, and in incredibly nuanced ways. Mobile marketing should be equally as nuanced, as a part of larger cross-channel campaigns.
For the past few years, Starbucks has led the charge with the ultimate – and oft-cited – example of a carefully integrated cross-channel program. Working with resources foreign to most brands, but also with a high level of consciousness about their customers, Starbucks has created its own closed-loop marketing environment. They track in-store mobile payments, monitor and reward customer loyalty, and intelligently serve ads across countless platforms. Starbucks’ success is measurable and their targeting, creative, and implementation is so good that their services have become branding experiences.
Mobile advertising doesn’t exist in a magical medium, impermeable to the same problems marketers have faced for decades. With all the new and incredible ways to deliver ads, we still have the responsibility to make engaging ads that are a part of cross-channel campaigns and experiences. Marketers must be open and experimental, take risks and develop new metrics of success. Build a new breed of champions at your organization that can drive an era of better mobile ads.


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