Moving Mobile from Cool to Intelligently Hip

Now Serving Mobile“Now Serving Mobile” is a column focused on the audience-buying opportunity in mobile advertising.

Elizabeth Zalman is co-Founder at Media Armor, a mobile advertising technology company.

In January, I committed my 2012 resolutions to this readership, and my personal favorite was ensuring we hit $1B in spend.  Resolutions are wonderful, but in order to fulfill them, we have to act.

First, a story: about a week ago, I was browsing at the online site of a large luxury goods multi-channel retailer.  I put two dresses into my cart, then abandoned.  I didn’t receive any remarketing ads.  The next day, I went back to the site and bought the dresses, and right after I converted, I began getting messaged on behalf of the retailer.  The ads were dynamically rendered, showcasing the two dresses I had just purchased.  The first few times I saw them, I chuckled, but after a while, I became frustrated because the content of the messaging was borderline absurd.  Even worse, I ended up returning the dresses to the retailer’s brick-and-mortar store, and not twelve hours later, received two more ads.  Eek!

It’s relatively easy to explain this scenario away.  For whatever reason, the vendor serving the ads neglected to close the loop that I had purchased, and the content of the ads was rendered irrelevant.  Then, the offline component of my behavior wasn’t translated to the online, and the content became even more extraneous.

We live an imperfect world with respect to data.  These imperfections become even more apparent when of-the-moment bells and whistles (in this case, dynamic rendering) aren’t fed information appropriate to each individual consumer.  In the story above, the messaging itself wasn’t immaterial; it was the content.

As we look at how money is being invested in mobile advertising, it’s very much focused on these ‘of the moment’ whistles, with extremely limited intelligence feeding the technology:

  • Location – Location’s potentiality is amazing in that it uses the fact that mobile is literally a roving ad medium.  It can be informed by country, state, DMA, or hyper-local (the last of which is opt-in).  While it is very cool to use location to inform messaging (e.g. car rentals ads when consumers are near airports), does it work?  Does location amplify consumer behavior above showing them an ad (beyond CTR)?  Hyper-local is even cooler, and yet very few consumers actually opt-in to having their location tracked.  But for those that do, does it actually drive store walk-ins en masse?
  • RTB – This technology is amazing online, creating margin efficiencies when ID-level data is used to inform real-time valuation and ensuring media cost matches that consumers, but it’s not there yet in mobile.  Yet so often I hear mobile display vendors saying that they’re RTB-enabled.  Cool?  Very cool.  Does this impact Marketer spend in a positive fashion?  Not quite yet.  Until we join up and create a heuristic for identification that works for every company, across app and mobile web, RTB will remain a hip feature without significant benefit.
  • Rich media – There are lots of breathtaking creative experiences out there, but beyond the neatness of the experience, can we quantitatively verifiably link consumer engagement, awareness, or purchases to them (again, beyond CTR or qualitative surveys)?

I firmly believe ‘of the moment’ cool features are fine.  If hip is what it takes for us to grow, wonderful!  It is very cool to spin a car around 360 degrees in a rich media ad, and I remember that the first time I rubbed frost off of a screen to expose a coffee shop’s message, I giggled with delight.  The key is to ensure that we don’t continue developing hip for hip’s sake.  Can we keep Marketers engaged with hip, while we strive to enhance the technology with relevancy?  We must ensure that whatever message a consumer sees, it is appropriate for them at that moment in time, and most importantly, that it provides a healthy ROAS.  Long-term, if we can’t prove mobile display provides a return, then even the coolest features won’t retain media spend.

I believe that we, as an industry, must collectively focus on ‘us’.  In the spirit of a more intelligent ‘hip’, how can our cooperative efforts ensure that no matter what we independently invest our development resources in, it is timely, relevant, and moves our collective goals forward?  The unification of ‘us’ ensures that $1B number will not only be reached in 2012, but surpassed!

With continued resolution (pun intended),

Your Mobile Display Woman

Follow Media Armor (@mediaarmor) and (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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1 Comment

  1. Dustin Whitney

    I can tell from your description of the online retailer that your intent to purchase those dresses was probably batched processed overnight and delivered to you the next day, all day – from a technological point of view it’s much easier to do it that way. Delivering messaging at the correct moment in real-time is difficult, but I agree that it’s important.