Mobile Ads Need to be Thumb-Stoppers Not Show-Stoppers

The following is a guest contributed post by Alex Burn, Creative Director, Collective.

There’s a lot of noise being made about how clients and agencies need to take a ‘mobile first’ approach when they’re planning campaigns that target Millennials and Generation Z consumers – but the evidence suggests marketers haven’t really taken this argument on board yet.

For a start, advertisers still seem to think it is OK to just take their TV ads and give them to digital execution specialists to run on mobiles.

Our specialist Studio team built 700 rich media units last year, a healthy percentage of which involved mobile with video. Yet in the vast majority of cases, we were still getting video content supplied in the traditional 16:9 TV format.

What’s wrong with that? Simple. More than 90% of users watch mobile video with their phones held vertically, not horizontally. They are highly unlikely to rotate their screens, so why don’t clients and agencies shoot ads in vertical format?

Yes, there are ‘fixes’ we can apply where we edit and recut letterbox format video to work on mobile, but ideally advertisers should be shooting ad content specifically for mobile, if they really want to create an effective brand experience via consumers’ phones.

It’s indicative of a ‘TV first’ mindset which is becoming increasingly more outdated and could, if it’s not addressed, significantly reduce the effectiveness of mobile video ads.

Research from Millward Brown found that 90% of online video is just repurposed TV material. That just isn’t good enough.

It’s not just the format of video content that suggests too many marketers and ad agencies are failing to fully grasp how consumers view programming and advertising on their phones and tablets.

Take sound. The vast majority of mobile users have their phones set to ‘mute’ by default. They won’t hear your beautifully crafted music score and voice over. For mobile video ads, you need to make sure there is clearly legibly text overlaying the video to communicate the brand message.

Then there’s the issue of attention spans. There is research to suggest that 10 seconds is about the maximum length for a mobile video ad – 6 or 7 seconds is optimal. So marketers and their agencies should be thinking short and snappy – unfortunately, too many of them still want to create mini-films, but what is needed is not a show-stopper but a thumb-stopper. You only have a few seconds to catch people’s attention, so make it short and sweet.

That leads naturally on to my next point — edit for mobile. The traditional cinematic TV/cinema ad with its carefully-constructed building narrative simply does not work on mobile. In fact, there’s a lot of research that suggests that ad blocking has been driven by consumer frustration at being continually fed ads that would work fine on TV but just don’t work on the mobile screen.

To grab users’ attention, you need to hit them immediately with something that hook them and reels them in, and then you can deliver further information. At most the ad should be 10 seconds.

Mobile is a hugely intimate and relevant device that is capable of delivering deeply personal and engaging brand experiences wherever the consumer goes (assuming they have network coverage!). Treat it as a second-class medium, and give it the scraps from TV campaigns, and it will never be able to deliver to its true potential.

There has never been a greater need for video content to be produced and tailored for the digital environment from the start – it should no longer be just an afterthought. There’s no underestimating the power of TV to create a wonderful theatrical, cinematic experience; but it takes a different approach to deliver that same impact on the mobile screen.