The Importance of Innovative Ad Formats

The following is a guest contributed post by Johnny Li, VP of International Business Development, Cheetah Mobile.

The growing popularity of ad blockers across desktop and mobile has many advertisers (and publishers) worried. After all, how can you reach consumers when those very same people have closed themselves off from most avenues of communication? Most brands have tried to work around this by increasing spend on social platforms, but having so many brands advertising on the same platform has, perhaps unsurprisingly, made it harder for them to stand out individually. The industry as a whole needs to come up with innovative ad formats that will grab people’s attentions and reach them where they are.

For brands, there are essentially two ways of catching someone’s attention: Either they were already interested in the product you’re selling or have some familiarity with it, or it’s being packaged in such a way that it piques their interest. The best ads are able to connect with the consumer in a new way, whether by displaying content that the consumer will find interesting, or through interactive aspects and functions that the consumer can engage with. It can be difficult to conduct the latter on social media because advertisers are beholden to the formats of individual social media platforms — but the growth of mobile advertising has given advertisers the opportunity to experiment with new formats.

The ubiquity and convenience of smartphones means that people and their devices are now attached at the hip — not that I have to tell any of you that. In addition, 92% of the time we spend on our phones is spent in apps; Facebook itself accounts for 19% of the average person’s phone time, and social media, messaging, and other media and entertainment apps account for 51% of time spent on mobile. If you’re looking to advertise on mobile, it makes sense to try and advertise on the platforms that people are spending the most time on — but, as noted earlier, this means falling into the same trap of increasing ad spend on social media, only to have to compete with the thousands of other brands doing the same.

How, then, can advertisers reach consumers without having to rely on social media platforms? The answer lies in catching them before they open those apps, what we call a “pre-social moment.”

One example of a pre-social moment for advertisers is the AppLock feature we built at Cheetah Mobile. On the consumer side, AppLock is a privacy tool that allows users to block access to certain Android apps, such as Facebook or Snapchat, unless a swipe pattern is provided, thus preventing unauthorized people from accessing confidential (and potentially embarrassing) information. For advertisers, since just about any Android app works with AppLock, brands can can choose the audience and situation that fits their campaigns.

When Cheetah Mobile teamed up with Datsun, a sub-brand of Nissan Motors, to help generate awareness for the launch of a brand-new car model, the results were impressive, to say the least. Datsun’s self-stated goals prior to the campaign were, in addition to raising awareness, included driving people (no pun intended) to download product brochures and register for test drives, reaching audiences on their screens, and generating at least half a million sit-down visits with the product. The AppLock campaign did all that and more. In total, the campaign generated 66 million impressions, and the purchase intent was over 2.5 times higher than mobile retail norms. As a result, Datsun car dealerships were able to receive a large number of engaged and quality visits, as well as significant brand uplift.

Datsun is not the only one to have used AppLock to great effect; brands such as Coca-Cola, Samsung, Amazon, Dell and McDonald’s have all raised brand awareness and achieved significant ROI using the interactive format. What all of these brands have in common is that they saw the benefit of reaching people who were on their way into a social experience; in other words, they understood that the pre-social moment was the time when a person would be more receptive to an ad. Any brand that uses AppLock to advertise knows that their ads will be seen, and they know that the user will have to interact with it in some manner, even if it’s as brief as them swiping through to unlock the app they want to use.

Obviously, brands can’t rely solely on ad placement to save the day. Copy and creative play an equally important role in keeping users engaged and ensuring that a brand remains top-of-mind among consumers. But using tools like AppLock will at least help to take some of the guesswork out, and is a wholly unique way to reach out to consumers.