Mobile Ads for the On-Demand Era– At Scale?

The following is a guest contributed post by AdColony‘s VP of product marketing, Andrew Dubatowka.

Advertising has always gotten a bad rap. For every great ad there have always been hundreds or even thousands of awful ones, the ones that “ruin it for everyone else.”

And now, in the digital space, despite the capabilities we have to serve high quality ads to the right people, at the right time, in a way that adds value to their lives instead of annoying them, we are starting to see a frightening decline in quality. Mobile web ads that appear on your screen while you are navigating to a distinct URL, actively seeking content, and completely distract you from your search. They’re like the original pop-up desktop ads of the early 2000s, reimagined for the mobile device!

Much of this has been by the need to standardize, the need to template advertising that can be delivered at scale, through an increasingly automated means. And that is certainly the future, it simply has to be.

However – the ads don’t have to be bad. They don’t have to be disruptive. They don’t have to destroy user experience. We can create ads that people control and request, and not just because they are clever, or cute. We can serve ads that entertain and inform, and that people are choosing to see, not being forced upon them.

You can make ads people like, and you can deliver them in the way they want them. And you can serve those ads to the right audience, at the right time, with massive efficiency – programmatically, which is the way that media from this point can and should be bought and sold.

Ads people like…

How do you create a “likeable” ad? According to a recent customer-first marketing survey, it’s all about bringing more joy to your ads. As one respondent noted, “Unless they are about medication or other very serious matters, companies should integrate more humor into their ads.”

Other studies on emotion-centric marketing strategy back this up. Evoking positive emotion in your viewer is essential to concentrate attention, retain viewers and drive digital sharing. Specifically, the most effective is to create a sense of surprise, which is then quickly followed by joy. To be even more effective, the Harvard team suggested taking that joy away, and then bringing it back again, ultimately creating an “emotional roller coaster,” a cycle that hooks viewers and increases their likelihood of continuing to watch a digital video ad to completion.

Take note, too, that mood matters beyond just the ad itself. When consumers are in a positive mood due to the content they are consuming, perhaps using an app that makes them happy, advertisers can use that build a positive connection with the user, and with that comes the trust that leads to a purchase action. Consumers have reported being happiest while playing mobile games (77%), for instance, which could be one reason why mobile ads – whether they be rich media banners or full-screen videos – in gaming apps perform so well.

In the way they want them

Another oft-overlooked component of delivering the best ad experiences is format. Sure, advertisers use a variety of ad formats, but how often do they think about which format the consumer wants? How often do they put the customer first?

We must refocus on the consumer, and user-initiated advertising is the way to do that. When a user is in a digital environment that contains solely ads you can opt-in to, they perceive it as a highly private arena in which they are in control. Brands must ask permission, in the right way, to enter their world. And, once they enter, the brand must add relevant value to the experience, based on what they know from behavioral triggers  – or risk breaking that trust.

When they do so, though, they are rewarded with higher performance:

  • Embedded, user-initiated ads within apps have received 8X more mental engagement, 3X more time spent with the brand and a higher brand recall than the usual interstitial video ads.
  • Value exchange, or rewarded video, ad units drive a 34% lift in awareness and a 26% increase in purchase intent, surpassing Nielsen’s benchmarks by 3.5X and 5X respectively.
  • Playables are now found by more than 7 out of 10 advertisers to be effective, and 45% find them to be the most exciting ad unit for 2017, as well.

Instead of buying impressions, the advertiser is earning the user’s attention. Another benefit is that you cannot teach bots to perform these levels of engagement, so advertisers know they are reaching an actual person.

Bought the way media should be bought

You can deliver compelling creative, and in the right format, but it won’t matter a bit if you cannot reach your audience at scale, or if your campaign cannot benefit from the great promise of automation – delivering the right ad, to the right person, at the right time, and at the right price.

Traditionally, that’s what programmatic has been about: Audience and scale. And while the industry for years has been predicting the death of the standard mobile display banner, it’s not going anywhere soon. There’s too much ease and scale wrapped up in those units.

However, it’s now clear that we have evolved to the point where full-screen and interactive display units – the expandable rich media, HD video and playable ads I refer to above – can be bought and sold programmatically. Budgets for these units have grown nearly 50% in the past year, and usage has also grown by 61% in that time.

With this shift from remnant inventory and low-denominator ad types to premium apps and highly engaging units, we can see that programmatic is now a tool for efficiency, reach and to help achieve lower-funnel brand outcomes, not just media outcomes.

From this moment forward…

Digital ads, including mobile, do not have to be a source of annoyance or discontent with consumers; they can delight, entertain and provide valuable information for their daily lives. As an industry, we must commit to delivering these experiences, and in the moments and places that the consumer chooses to receive them, rather than at our own whims.

This is where mobile is going, and the best global brands are already leaning into this movement – it’s time for everyone else to do it, too. As more marketers jump on board and move into automated, scalable delivery of these types of ads, mapping them to downstream KPIs, everyone will benefit.