Mobile Measurement Has Been A Challenge Since ‘Day One’

MobileMediaSummitThe year of mobile, the decade of mobile, the year of data – none of the monikers matter if the right measurement isn’t in place.

“Clients are still looking for ROI and to connect the dots,” said Jeff Hinz, managing partner and US digital director at Mediacom, speaking at the Mobile Media Summit on Monday during Internet Week in New York City. “They can’t seem to figure out if mobile is great and successful in a traditional sense … [as in,] moving product off the shelf in a way they would want to measure it.”

Those have never been easy metrics to provide, said Scott Marsden, SVP of media at DigitasLBi, noting that “measurability of mobile has been a challenge for us since day one because of the lack of cookies.”

It’s not that cookies don’t exist on mobile, but rather that they’re ineffective. Mobile web cookies reset every time users shut their browser and in-app cookies aren’t sharable between apps.

“Consumers are saying they want this personalization, but we’re struggling with the data, which is still very much inaccurate,” Marsden said. “We struggle connecting data across screens. The idea that the data is so perfect, that it can tell who you are and where you are and how a message should be customized to you – we’re not there yet.”

The industry’s shift toward people-based marketing – a term trumpeted by Facebook with the launch of its Atlas ad server in September – is still a work in progress, Marsden said.

“We’re trying to eliminate this idea that there’s a phone screen, a tablet screen, a desktop screen,” he said. “At some point, we need to find people where they are.”

That need is driving the trend toward deterministic login models. Facebook has it, Google is reportedly testing a cross-device ID solution with its agency partners and Verizon and AOL  just merged to create their own walled fiefdom.

But it’s all still shaking out.

“Programmatic in the display space is built on cookies [and] until we are really able to move into that device ID area … programmatic will continue to struggle,” said Will Phung, VP of media at M&C Saatchi Mobile, who remarked that DR-focused advertisers in particular “are not very solid in mobile right now.”

That said, the dollars are there, and eMarketer predicts that mobile ad spend will double in 2015 to hit $28.7 billion. By 2019, mobile could make up as much as 72% of total digital ad spend in the US.

“We’re still talking about the disparity between time spent and investment in mobile, but it’s a fallacy. Mobile is embedded in almost everything we buy,” said Jonathan Adams, chief digital officer for North America at WPP-owned media agency Maxus.

Clients are “bullish on mobile” – with one caveat, said Shenan Reed, president of digital for North America at MEC.

“The fear at the moment is that so much of it is still so new,” she said. “Am I choosing the right partner? Am I doing it the right way? They don’t want to mess it up. Clients want ROI, but they also dream of ‘Minority Report.’ We’re not that far away from it in reality.”

Not that far away in terms of what’s possible – but sometimes the reality is a little more prosaic.

“Some clients still don’t have mobile sites or mobile-specific creative,” said Mediacom’s Hinz.

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