Marketers Must Redefine ‘Premium’ In Mobile

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 Dean Vegliante, president at Netmining.

With smartphones “positioned to become the default device for internet access” for many Americans, according to eMarketer, marketers know that they must have a mobile component. But because the mobile web is so unique, advertisers can’t carry over the audience targeting or brand-safety guidelines they’ve used in print and desktop advertising.

Nowhere is this clearer than with the idea of “premium” inventory. In desktop and print advertising, premium is only found on widely recognizable sites. Premium content begets premium audiences; thus, these sites can claim to have premium inventory.

Unfortunately, there is no corollary for mobile environments. Sticking to the same definition of premium could be disastrous for a brand trying to reach its audience at scale. For brands to matter in mobile, they need to embrace a new definition of premium.

This difference between mobile and desktop begins with how people consume media on mobile devices. On the desktop, consumers move from web page to web page while shopping or reading articles. In mobile, time is spent overwhelmingly within apps – an average of two hours and 25 minutes a day in apps this year, compared to just 26 minutes on the mobile web, according to eMarketer. By 2019, in-app time will increase another 18 minutes, while the mobile web will grow by just one minute.

The discussion about premium needs to focus on apps. Premium publishers don’t account for most of time spent. While consumers do spend time in apps from publishers, such as The New York Times or Washington Post, the top five in-app activities are listening to digital audio, social networking, playing games, watching video and messaging.

Video and social networks are prominent ad channels, and programmatic audio is still in the early stages, which realistically leaves gaming and messaging – two avenues that don’t fit the traditional definition of “premium.” Many brands and agencies are turned off by daily use apps that deliver utility or experiences instead of content. They don’t want to deliver their messages in games and feel that apps like Words with Friends or Solitaire are neither the right context nor appropriate content for their brand.

Instead, these kinds of buyers want their ads to appear alongside content from outlets like Vogue. The issue is that Vogue, like many premium publishers, doesn’t serve ads in its app. While it is possible to work only with premium publishers that do serve ads in apps, such as ESPN, that strategy limits the possibilities awfully fast.

Using 100 or fewer well-regarded publisher apps drops scale before the brand even begins applying audience targeting criteria that shrinks the consumer pool even further. Brands that go this route will reach a very small audience and miss many prospective customers.

Brands must be willing to abandon their traditional definition of premium and instead focus on where their audiences can be found. This means conducting background research across a wide variety of apps, regardless of their utility. If 85% of a gaming app’s audience fits a brand’s criteria, then that brand needs to work with that app.

Recent studies suggest that the majority of Words with Friends players are more than 45 years old. A brand like Chase Bank should be serving ads there around savings and retirement. OK, that is overly simplistic. Brands will undoubtedly use more qualifiers for identifying audiences, but at the very least, they need to stop limiting themselves based on outdated ideas of what kind of content attracts premium audiences.

For brands to effectively use mobile to reach their target consumers, they need to understand that people engage with mobile media far differently than with traditional digital media. Old-school strategy carried over from print may have sufficed in the early days of digital, but it’s not translatable to mobile. Brands need to abandon their preconceived notions of what constitutes a premium environment and instead focus on a new definition that helps reach their audience across previously unexplored, brand-safe mobile environments.

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

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