Forrester: Mobile Vendors Have An ‘Identity Crisis’ – And It’s Leaving Advertisers A Bit Confused

ForrestermobilevendorsIn today’s mobile ad tech landscape, the blind lead the blind.

That’s according to Forrester in a report released Monday that aims to help advertisers get some clarity into what’s become an immature and murky market of mobile vendors.

Most mobile tech players aren’t clear enough about the services they provide, often using jargon and buzzwords that obfuscate their offerings – but it’s not just the vendors who are to blame.

“Marketers aren’t exactly sure what to ask for from their partners, which is why vendors are trying to be the answer to any possible question,” said Forrester research analyst Jennifer Wise, who penned the report. “If you want cross-channel, the vendor will say, ‘We do cross-channel.’ If you want online to offline, they’ll say they do that, too. If you need help creating a new mobile format, they’re there.

“The bottom line is that everyone will tell you that they can do everything.”

And it’s holding the market back.

Less than a third of the 35 mobile ad tech vendors surveyed by Forrester are what Wise referred to as “purebreds,” meaning that the majority of vendors don’t identify with a single core offering. Roughly one-fifth of the vendors claimed that their capabilities span the veritable gamut at equal parts DSP, SSP, ad network, server and exchange.

While some of that can be attributed to consolidation in the market, in-house development or, simply, as the result of opportunistic – or, shall we say, proactive – positioning, the fact remains that many marketers aren’t sure how to go about selecting the right mobile ad partner.

“It’s true that advertisers are spoiled for choice – they do have a lot of it – but the core problem is not that they have their pick, but that they don’t know how to choose because they’re picking their way through jargon,” Wise said. “That’s why we’re calling on advertisers to optimize for mobile specifically, because mobile is and should be very different than whatever they’re doing for display.”

In other words, the onus is on marketers to ask the right questions and start educating themselves about the mobile space, rather than just continuing to work with whoever they work with for display because it’s convenient or because they assume their vendor knows what it’s doing.

Advertisers also need to have a clearer idea of their own goals and KPIs at the outset before grabbing onto a passing mobile vendor and shooting off into an uncertain mobile future like Marty McFly on his skateboard in “Back To The Future.”

“It’s easy to get lost in the jargon and think, ‘This sounds great,’ but it’s time for advertisers to take charge, understand their own requirements first and even get into the tech a little, too,” Wise said. “ How does a particular vendor connect the online digital consumer to the store? Are they using a unique ID like an email address or are they using device location? What kind of inventory do they have access to? Ask.”

It’s about due diligence, especially in key areas such as creative capabilities, targeting granularity, inventory access and global footprint, as well as a vendor’s pricing models and any additional services and add-ons, like measurement, attribution or cross-device.

“A more informed conversation on both sides will enable advertisers to home in on a vendor’s niche in the market,” Wise said.

When that happens, mobile budgets will follow, she said.

“Once an advertiser picks the right vendor that can optimize to their requirements, their campaigns will perform better and they’ll be able to justify the spend,” Wise said. “Before then, don’t throw things at a wall and hope. Do it strategically.”

Forrester is planning a follow-up report in Q3 that will delve more deeply into the maturity and trajectory of tech in the mobile ad space.

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