Finally, The Year Of Mobile! Nope, You Missed It.

steinberg-twc-sell-siderThe Sell-Sider” is a column written by the sell-side of the digital media community.

Today’s column is written by Jeremy Steinberg, SVP, Digital Ad Sales at The Weather Company.  

Are you still waiting for the year of mobile? Well, guess what? You missed it. That’s right, I said it – and if you didn’t know that to be true, you’ve been OOO–out of the office–a little too long.

Why do I think so? Check out Mary Meeker’s latest Internet Trends presentation from December. Smartphones out-shipped PCs in 2011. Still not buying it? Smartphones and tablets combined will outnumber PCs in a month. And if you think you still have time to get it together, you’re crazy. Consumers’ lives have already changed forever. Who isn’t depositing checks by taking a picture? Not using Uber? Square? What about Vine? Name anything else, besides the bathroom, which is used as often throughout the day.

The good news is that you didn’t miss the gold rush – because there is no revenue in mobile. Why? Because mobile monetization is broken. If you feel otherwise, you’re lying. $.40 eCPM’s are not cool. Leveraging app downloads to fill unsold inventory is not a strategy – it’s a Band-Aid, and a bad one at that. How about using performance-based advertising? Good luck with that.

But do not fret. I have the solution: Attribution. Why? Because web metrics do not work on mobile. We get a mulligan! So now we can redefine what makes digital marketing effective as well as how we track it. And proper attribution modeling opens up a whole new world of possibility so marketers can place value where value is due.

Here’s why attribution will solve the mobile monetization problem:

1. It will make click-through rates a thing of the past and allow us to focus on metrics that matter.

Click metrics are flawed. They don’t tell the complete story. They do not truly value an ad exposure the right way. They can’t tell you if someone was engaged in your message but did not click on your call to action. They can’t tell you if someone saw your message on a phone and then went to your website and converted. Clicks can’t tell you if someone’s behavior has shifted.

Even with the obvious flaws, marketers have spent years perfecting their ability to track attribution through clicks and conversions to validate their digital spending. They used these metrics for lack of better ones. But now that these metrics don’t work all that well on mobile, it gives us a huge opportunity to reinvent how to prove the effectiveness of brand marketing with the right metrics that matter. This pushes us towards using the guiding principles of the IAB’s great work around ‘Making Measurement Make Sense.’ Proper attribution is the technology that tracks it all and brings the right future together, because we can attribute marketing success against viewable impressions, reach, and frequency of audiences, not impressions, interactive brand metrics, and integrated cross-screen measurement.

Once we move away from the click, we can help marketers start to track and plan their business holistically. Attribution makes things simple. As a marketer, you don’t have to use different metrics for each platform. Everyone says that digital is so much better because it is trackable, but then why isn’t brand money shifting? Because we aren’t using the same metrics as brand marketing! Clicks do not move brands. Engagement moves brands. Shifting attitudes moves brands. Perception and favorability move brands. And tracking it all with the right attribution model will achieve the right success.

2. It will help marketers determine ROI across multiple screens.

Once you ditch the click-through rate and focus on the measurement metrics that matter, you can finally solve for multiscreen. As I said, marketers want to think about their business holistically but haven’t been able to before. For every dollar they spend to reach a certain person, they want to know the ROI. If they can easily make that calculation across all screens, don’t you think that will materially improve the mobile business? A marketer can say very simply that if they run across TV, web, and mobile, and spend a certain amount on each medium to reach a certain number of people a certain amount of times, they know what will happen. And what if they do it across the same property and it will work even better – doesn’t that sound pretty good?

3. It will make way for a breakthrough in creative.

Now that you aren’t beholden to the outdated success metrics of the past you can innovate for the future. Let’s think about new ways to market in mobile. Let’s leverage the full benefits of the phone and tablet. We can think less about banners that drive clicks and focus more on integrated and native marketing experiences that achieve the new success metrics.

4. It will define new metrics of successful marketing, with video leading the way.

Why? Because video is the same on every screen. Everyone knows that video is not about the click. Video changes brand perception. Video has amazing sight, sound and motion. Video scales. So finding a way to attribute the success of video correctly can finally be the catalyst that pushes digital in a new direction.

You don’t have to completely agree about how we solve mobile, but I challenge you to find another option. I haven’t heard of another one yet that I think is the answer. If you know what it is, please tell me. Either way, the year of mobile has passed so we better get moving.

Follow Jeremy Steinberg (@jeremysteinberg) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.


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  1. Mobile monetization is far from being broken. Mobile Search is the fastest growing category in Digital and is based on…..wait for it…. clicks! Year-over-year paid search spend for tablets and smartphones are up 112% and 113%, respectively in the US (Ignition One data). As long as publishers treat mobile with the same anti-click mentality that has brought them six straight years of declining CPM on desktop (IAB data) those mobile budgets will keep flowing to Google, Facebook and Twitter even faster then they are now.

  2. Jeremy, attribution relies on either cookies or digital fingerprinting, neither of which work well for iOS. How are you proposing mobile’s ad views be attributed to a user who has also seen the campaign across other screens?