Mobile: Still A Pain Point For The Buy Side

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christopherhansen"Data-Driven Thinking" is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Christopher Hansen, president at Netmining.

The industry initially treated mobile like a silo in the rush to get ads onto devices. Marketers, eager to leverage these new devices, pushed agencies to quickly develop mobile strategies to plug in next to display, search and video. That was the wrong way to address mobile.

Mobile is not a silo or singular tactic, but a distribution channel that can unify an entire marketing plan. Advertisers that treat mobile as a discreet media tactic miss out on the opportunity to thoughtfully work the connection between online and offline activity, tracking and optimizing those consumer pathways.

This is hardly revolutionary thinking, yet under the pressure of industry misperception and an oversimplified mobile marketer perspective, mobile still flummoxes agencies. They don’t have any idea how to get their ads onto a smartphone screen, let alone strategically execute mobile within a broader cross-channel mix. Mobile is painful for them, and therefore, the entire buy side.

Thankfully, this can change by repositioning mobile’s place in the digital landscape.

Mobile Is Not A Discrete Channel

It’s helpful to start by simplifying the concept of digital media. Think of all ad buying falling under two tactics: display and search. Each features different ad units, with search using text while display has banners and video. Both tactics are delivered on two channels: desktop and mobile.

Under this theory, mobile would be a component of a larger display program, much the same way agencies currently view outlets like Yahoo. It’s also important to look at mobile as media, rather than a conversion channel. After all, that’s what brand advertisers really need – a true understanding of their media distribution and results.

When a brand considers mobile, they care more about how mobile conversions relate to the media impressions elsewhere than simply getting the ads onto the device. Brands want to know how iPad conversions factor into the cross-device story, and how to use that data to better serve ads across mobile and desktop.

If the shift in thinking — from discrete media channel to a distribution channel — doesn’t take place, then agencies will never correctly value what happens on mobile devices or the value of the mobile impression to drive activity across other channels. That means they’ll never allocate budget to the best channel and will fail to forecast budgets appropriately. But that requires some changes to attribution theory, as well.

Mobile Must Be Attributed To All Channels

As the two main marketing tactics integrate mobile into their offering, conversion attribution will become more important for agencies. To deliver to clients, they’ll have to understand whether a desktop impression drove a conversion that took place on a mobile device or app, or vice versa.

It’s impossible to properly attribute conversions like this without proper cross-device tracking. This requires tying behaviors, such as purchase history, intent and consumer data, including demographics and geography, to mobile conversions.

As the mobile data set gets more sophisticated, don’t be surprised to see mobile take share away from the desktop. Many industry watchers already predict this, while sites like Pinterest receive 75% of their daily traffic via mobile devices. That’s not to say that the desktop is going obsolete. Rather, advertisers will have a richer understanding of consumers once mobile is woven deeper into the fabric of their media planning.

Mobile can no longer be a pain point. Agencies need to rethink mobile’s place in the media planning process, and invest in the right suppliers and systems to service this part of the mix. It’s crucial to examine new tracking and data tactics outside the cookie to learn more about consumers and explore the potential and power of the mobile impression within the mix. It is only from that level of understanding that an agency can deliver long-term value to brand clients in this cross-channel world.

Follow Netmining (@Netmining) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter

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