A Blizzard, A Phone And A Shovel

melissaparrishupdatedMarketer’s Note” is a regular column informing marketers about the rapidly evolving, digital marketing technology ecosystem. This week it is written by Melissa Parrish, Executive Director, AdExchanger Research.  

Like pretty much every other resident of my New Jersey town, I found myself in a home improvement store last Monday hoping to buy a couple of extra shovels and some snow melt. I was standing in the aisle where the shovels should be, faced with nothing but empty shelves, when I turned to my phone to see if the store on the other side of town had any available.

“OK, Google,” I said. “Does the [home improvement store] on Main Street have any shovels in stock?”

Google couldn’t tell me the answer because that store’s search results didn’t include real-time inventory, but at the top of the page was an ad that solved my problem: A competitor to the store I was standing in had shovels in stock. I could click right there to reserve one so it wouldn’t get sold before I got to the store. And look! A neighbor of mine had recently reviewed this service and thought it was great! Twenty minutes later I was in line for a latte. The new shovels were already in the car.

Clearly this retailer gets the core tenet that the best mobile advertising is immediately actionable and contextually relevant. And as I talk about in my report Mobile’s Unmet Potential, nearly 80% of the more than 500 professionals we surveyed at the end of 2014 agree with them and expect that mobile advertising will become extremely well-targeted and personalized over the next five years.

This kind of precision targeting is one of the reasons that Facebook’s mobile ad solutions have been so successful. Just this week the social media giant announced that mobile represented 69% of ad revenue in the last quarter of 2014 and that mobile daily active users averaged 745 million during December. But as thrilled as I am to see mobile getting that kind of traction from both consumers and marketers, it also makes me a little nervous.

Success like that – just like the effective dynamic ad I got in the store last week – breeds copycats. Imitation can be a good way to learn what’s possible, but we mustn’t stop once we’ve mastered what we can do today.

That home improvement store really impressed me, but it’s the only time I’ve ever seen a relevant ad from them – mobile or not. Now the brand has to figure out how to take what they’ve learned from that super-smart ad and build it into the rest of their media planning.

And while Facebook is having a lot of success with early native mobile formats, the real value for the rest of the ecosystem is the proof they’re proving that high-quality native mobile advertising can be bought programmatically. Facebook has not figured out mobile advertising’s end game.

It’s not a bold prediction to say that I think Facebook’s mobile ad revenue will continue to grow, but it’s important that we don’t follow the earnings calls just to marvel at the numbers. What Facebook is learning now can help the entire mobile advertising industry succeed in the future – as long as we build on the foundation it is establishing instead of just repeating what’s already been done.

Follow Melissa Parrish (@MelissaRParrish) and AdExchanger Research (@AdExchangerRsch) on Twitter.

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