The One-Size-Fits-All Model Doesn’t Apply To Mobile

micheletobinsellsiderThe Sell Sider” is a column written by the sell side of the digital media community.

Today’s column is written by Michele Tobin, vice president of global brand partnerships and advertising at Rovio.

In the not-so-distant past, there was a “one-size-fits-all” model applied to advertising. Once a brand decided which medium they wanted to advertise in – television, print or radio – they had a blueprint to follow.

There was basically only one ad format per medium to consider: a 30-second video, a 60-second radio spot or an 8.5 x 11 print ad. No matter who the audience was or where it was being seen or heard, there was one way to build it.  Advertisers also thought that if they wanted a campaign to run across multiple mediums, they could simply reconfigure their message and run it in a new channel.

Now that we are in the age of mobile, the layers of complexity for advertisers has increased tenfold. Marketers trying to stick to a single blueprint are struggling.

The consumer experience on mobile is specialized and personal, and varies depending on what publisher or platform a person is interacting with at the time. Depending on whether they are Snapchatting, tweeting, sharing selfies, checking sports scores or playing a game while waiting in line, the user’s experience can differ significantly. Some apps have session times that average less than 30 seconds, while others average five minutes or more. As brands plan mobile campaigns, it’s crucial to understand these nuances.

To date, many brand marketers have been disappointed with mobile advertising. That’s because too many marketers are applying this one-size-fits-all model to their campaign planning.

When marketers first started testing mobile advertising, campaigns largely used two creative strategies: a static image that ran across a wide range of sites – often scaling a banner down to where it was grainy and unrecognizable – or a pre-existing video from another channel that was reconfigured for mobile as a video interstitial or a “click-to-play” video.

These ads tried to leverage online ad formats and were not designed for mobile. As a result, the creative clashed with the mobile environment and provided a subpar experience for the consumer.

When approaching advertising, publishers need to be mindful of two primary goals: Maximize revenue and ensure the best possible user experience. The one-size-fits-all not only does not work well for marketers, it doesn’t work well for publishers, either.

A Twist On Personalization

As we think about improving the consumer experience, many marketers point to the future of the space as personalization, realized by advances in ad-targeting technology.

By leveraging location, demographic and behavioral data points, marketers are able to set up targeting parameters that ensure their ads are only being seen by consumers who fall into their target audiences.

Leveraging these uniquely mobile data points is a step in the right direction from the one-size-fits-all campaigns, but what if we are looking at personalization the wrong way? What if we shouldn’t necessarily be trying to personalize an ad to the specific end recipient, but personalizing the ad content to the environment in which it will be viewed?

The rise of native advertising in the desktop space has shown that this can be an effective strategy, but when it comes to native, mobile has again proven to be very different than what advertisers are accustomed to seeing online.

A native ad online will generally fall into the category of a piece of advertorial content that looks like a “regular post.” This is not necessarily ideal on mobile. Mobile publishers need to think about how their audience is interacting with their app, and come up with a solution that will improve that experience. No one knows an audience better than the publisher, and this knowledge is invaluable when thinking about advertising.

The Power Of Utility

Mobile is most valuable when providing a utility. The reason we use a particular app is because it provides us with something we need right at that moment. The apps we use give us info on the weather, quick news or sports scores, social experiences and entertainment. To build an effective native ad in mobile, the advertising experience has to be related to that utility.

If a marketer knows that a consumer is checking their weather app for 30 seconds to get the daily forecast, the key is integrating their brand into that experience in a relevant way. Perhaps when the weather crosses a certain threshold and they know consumers are likely to share the info via social, they can sponsor a customized FB post that is easily sharable?

If a consumer is playing a mobile game – and about one-third of the average smartphone user’s time is spent playing mobile games – the publisher should consider if a brand can actually add to that entertainment experience. For example, a brand could provide users with in-game value – perhaps unlocking special content or game tips at a crucial moment in gameplay, thus creating a bit of a halo effect for that brand with the player.

In the end, native ads are successful because they avoid the one-size-fits-all model, and focus on the environment above all else. They aren’t pigeonholing a campaign into a few pre-existing ad formats or reusing online creative out of principle.

In mobile, one size does not fit all, and the marketers and publishers that understand this are the ones that find success.

Follow Michele Tobin (@MicheleTobin), Rovio (@Rovio) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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