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How to Be a Pioneer in Mobile’s Wild West

NolanBrown260Today’s mobile ad landscape is a bit like the wild west in the 1800s: relatively ungoverned, mostly unstructured, and currently operating under a sort of “anything goes” attitude. Like the old west, it is space that everyone seems to be moving to quite rapidly, prospecting for modern-day gold.

Recently, it feels as though we in the advertising industry have dubbed each year “the Year of Mobile,” signifying that this year will be the one where we fully realize the potential of mobile devices. With 2015’s rapid approach, I believe it is time to shift our understanding of the space and suggest that we focus instead on the “Era of Connected.”

As consumers, we spend an average 147 minutes on our mobile devices every day according to Millward Brown. In fact, access to the Internet has become such an integral part of our daily lives that Chevrolet is now offering Wi-Fi in its new vehicles, to allow owners to watch movies while camping in remote forests, check email from the desert or stream music on the way to work without going over their data plan. Advertisers have certainly taken note of our “omni-connected” habits and eMarketer estimates that mobile ad spend is going to reach $58 billion by 2018, it’s currently about 1/3 of that, a startling $19 billion.

Focusing on this “Era of Connected” will help brands create some order out of the mobile space and produce true “pioneers” Here are what I believe are the four most important trends that a mobile pioneer should consider.

  1. All screens are not created equal

Right now, and for the foreseeable future, mobile is the optimum avenue to reach the consumer – we’re laser focused on our devices and they’re always with us. No doubt it’s going to play an increasingly bigger part in advertisers’ strategies. At this point, however, the vast majority of brands are just repurposing TV-based video ads for mobile devices.

We cannot just optimize them for mobile, we have to construct them for mobile. Mobile ads that capture consumer attention and engagement are not simply a supplemental strategy or an extension of existing content. For example, an ad created for a 48 inch screen likely won’t translate as well to a 4.5 inch hand-held screen – it’s far more difficult to process visually complex details on such a small device.

Create content in mind with the pervasive “swipe left” mentality. Mobile ads must be inherently more interactive because interactivity is part of the true promise of mobile – leverage what differentiates the medium. Brands should evolve from the simple interactive overlays that exist on most mobile – repurposed TV – ads and build in interactive functionality from the beginning. This will encourage consumers to engage further with the ad and deepen the connection with a brand.

  1. We engage differently with mobile platforms than desktop or TV

A successful mobile pioneer will consider that our behavior on mobile platforms is different than it is with desktop and TV content and encourage more precise ad targeting. As we’ve established, we’re in the “Era of Connected,” and we’re constantly engaging with our mobile devices. As such, we need to create content that accounts for the various times of day.

We can create different ads to resonate with our potential moods throughout the day: pre-work, workday, post-work, weekend, etc. Let’s focus on creating ads that factor in what we’re doing during the day. For example, a high-energy ad with up-tempo electronic music and fast-moving creative likely won’t resonate well in the evening, when users are on their commute home, trying to wind down after a stressful day. It would be better served up in the morning.

  1. Play nicely with others: find a balance between first-to-market and long-term strategy

Competition in the mobile world is fierce. Companies, entrepreneurs and start-ups are all rushing to be the first to deliver a certain type of ad or offer specific options and parameters. However, to be successful, a company must be first to market but also ensure that their solution can sustain and be leveraged in the long-term.

With a laser focus on creating solutions and technologies to address a certain yet-met need, we often lose sight of the holistic picture and considerations, such as broader integration with other technologies and platforms.

Take a look at today’s marketplace. There are many standalone solutions for ad serving. We’re seeing individual publishers that only accept certain formats or individual ad networks. This generalized lack of integration means that we can’t quite scale – we need distinct formats for specific sites. This is truly inefficient for both resources and time. What we need to focus on is integration, working together instead of trying to be the first and neglecting “play nice” with others.

  1. Pay attention to standards

Mobile pioneers will be the first to adapt to the industry standards set forth by key industry bodies like the Media Rating Council and Interactive Advertising Bureau. Standards for measuring, interactivity, and integration will help us all talk the same language during transactions and when quantifying the space. If we can create uniformity around what constitutes a mobile impression, for example, all parties from the creative to the networks to the publishers and beyond will be better served by speaking the same language. It will make our transactions quicker, more efficient, and allow us to create content that is ultimately more effective as we understand where and how it is consumed.

In the end, if we seek to fully realize the promise of mobile advertising and secure the riches and the “gold” from what is now a seemingly unruly landscape, we must filter our actions through an understanding that we’re in the “Era of Connected.” With 2015 quickly approaching, this year actually could be the year that we make significant leaps in the space so long as we remember that we must create specifically for mobile, recall consumer behaviors and think long-term.

Nolan Brown is Senior Director, Mobile Ad Systems at Vindico.

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