The Mobile Advertising Conundrum

If you do not change your direction, you may end up where you are heading.

The conventional wisdom in mobile advertising is that application inventory constitutes roughly 80(ish) percent of available inventory. This, as a general statement, is true. Without fail, every survey or OS use measurement stat states that somewhere between 80-89% of time is spent in apps. Often that translates into advertisers’ mobile advertising mix mirroring that ratio – or an even higher percent in-app.


Yet, when it comes to opportunities reaching interested consumers on mobile devices there may be some facts not taken into account that might be worth review. Simply, how do customers use apps versus the mobile web, and does that constitute a change in ad receptivity?

More often than not the point of advertising is to convert/conquest/add new consumers and loyalists. App usage follows some patterns that may be antithetical to this goal.


Apps are used for activities like social networking, gaming and entertainment

  • App activities are typically high engagement which cause a higher amount of time spent
  • High usage regularity means the same eyeballs are often seeing the same ads…and still not engaging
  • Mobile websites are a part of the shareable internet, which means their discoverable

 Google Mobile Shopper

The above statistics from Google highlight that branded apps only represent 26% of research while over 87% of researchers are starting on search or websites. On the surface this seems like a great stat for mobile search advertising, which it is. On second thought, it’s also a statistic that tells us even more about behavior which can be helpful for mobile display advertising. When on mobile sites, users are more in discovery mode. If engagement rates from mobile devices tell us anything, it’s that an enormous number of impressions go either unnoticed or not interacted with in any way.

If the preponderance of ads are served in an environment where behavior is less conducive to ad engagement, simply due to mindset during use, then it is likely that there will be fewer opportunities to engage prospects. Yet, the data, location reporting and app traffic is high in-app. This presents a serious conundrum.

In this post, I don’t give the answers, only ask the question…

Should app-based advertising be a smaller mix than the 80% traffic volume it represents?

Are we putting enough incentive on mobile web publishers to provide better data for advertising effectiveness?

Do you have other questions you want answered? Calling all advertisers, mobile data providers, ad servers and publishers – what say you?

What I’m trying to say is, the most traffic isn’t necessarily the right traffic and if it isn’t then what’s the right move to make when considering a mobile display advertising campaign?



Location is the New Con…

In advertising technology, we’re prone to using comparative language to explain a product or service to another product or service in popular use, because the product development, technologies and uses in this industry are typically greenfield. In other words, they’re not just improvements on ideas they’re typically completely new. For instance, a person may describe Instagram as Twitter with pictures instead of text. Or, one might compare an advertising exchange to the stock exchange – who may then need to compare a stock exchange to a cattle auction with detailed spec sheets on each bovine, depending on the audience.

“Analogies prove nothing that is true.”

We learned in grade school, that this process of comparison is called an analogy. Analogies can be defined as the comparison of two things to highlight some point of similarity so that understanding of the one being defined is more easily attainable. This, however, doesn’t make them necessarily true. Sigmund Freud said, “Analogies prove nothing that is true.” Freud is a genius. While comparison certainly allows the listener to more easily grasp a concept that does not necessitate actuality, or truth as Freud put it, to the genuine likeness of said comparative subjects.
There are multiple speakers, companies and Powerpoint decks chock full of language comparing location to the cookie. Desktop display blazed the behavioral data trail well before anyone believed that smartphones would one day overtake desk/laptops as the main access point to the internet. Therefore, great mental capital was expended on explaining how internet cookies (a piece of text a web server can store on a user’s hard disk) allow advertisers to understand online behavioral patterns, thusly, what type of person/profile is running the machine. Furthermore, there was even greater energy expelled on dissuading brands from utilizing content or context to make online ad buys because cookie (behavioral) technology was a better determinant of audience.

Content and Businesses

Location Context in NYC

Success! Many companies began to buy advertising this way and the behavioral targeting industry was born. Then, along came mobile. Cookies don’t really work for mobile advertising for a litany of reasons in which this post need not delve. Instead, let’s focus on what does work in mobile really well – location. Given that just about everyone with a smartphone takes it with them everywhere they go, the signals given off by their GPS tell a story about that person. With that in mind (and using Freud’s analogy to truth principle as a backdrop) there may be another more apt analogy to use that accurately describes what location does for advertisers. That is, “location is the new con…” Pick your con, be it ‘text or ‘tent. Just, don’t call it the new cookie.

Location allows us to intermingle understanding of the physical world and visitation patterns to define interest and intent. This is extremely powerful. As my cohort, Dan Silver, suggested, building location based audience is a cocktail of a multitude of inputs. Unlike the cookie, location takes into account real-world behavioral data that can be verified through location verification. Location also integrates 3rd party data associated with a given location for even greater understanding. Plus, phones are rarely shared, so reaching the intender is all but guaranteed when serving an ad. Lastly, there is a much higher barrier to entry to going someplace, so luxury item targeting is more precise than with cookies. Cut to scene of teenager clicking on Porsche ads. These truths, along with the fact that mobile advertising can be proven to understand ad influence through visitation study, makes for a much more robust picture of an audience and advertising impact than can be delineated via the cookie.

So the next time you’re in a room full of advertisers asking about location technology and how it works tell them, “It’s the new con…” A combination of the content associated with the visitation data surrounding that discrete latitude/longitude, plus the context of what the events, businesses, and/or homes are comprised of in that location. Hopefully, you’ll be able to help them understand the truth about location targeting more accurately through that analogy.


Mobile: the Bacon of Tech

It’s no secret, I love mobile, smart, cell technology. It’s intriguing and it’s been so for years, even though the year of mobile has never truly arrived. What does that mean, anyway? What will the year of mobile look like? Has anyone ever defined it and if they have why haven’t they shared it with the rest of us? I say the smartphone has hit the grown up mark, since (as the Boy Genius Report tells us) smartphone penetration has grown from 18% in 2009 to 44% at the end of 2011.  Now that’s a big deal. Why? Because media is powered by advertising. Media loves advertising dollars to flow through for their ability to give content to the consumer, cheaply or for free. This is what keeps the masses coming back. Given that and the fact that the power and usability of mobile technology has advanced to the point where they can handle all media consumption and technical uses, mobile has become the bacon of tech.

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Build Your Own App!

A couple of weeks ago, I had an idea for a mobile application, and thought I would research it to find out if I could get it done. While not really important, I would feel remiss if I were to neglect to mention what it was, it was a parking application for those of us who like convenience in the city. What I found was, and I’ve been playing with it a little bit ever since. Truthfully, I think that this could open up things for another of my favorite technologies, QR Codes, for mobile advertising and marketing. However, I’m getting ahead of myself.

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Direct-Response Digital – Mobile

You may have thought that the direct-response digital series had lost some steam. Au contriare, mon frere. There have been some technical difficulties at the Hand Raiser offices, but Ryan Meray at C! Tech Solutions got us back in the game…we’ll be at 100% capacity soon – but I digress. The real reason we’re here is because I want to talk about mobile. While thinking of ideas for this topic, I was serendipitously introduced to this eMarketer article in my Twitter stream. I am so lucky sometimes, people might confuse it as good.

In brief, the article states that mobile banners out perform standard banners in Click-Through Rates (CTR) and Conversion. In fact, for rich media formats (like floating ads and commercial breaks) the metrics on mobile double up standard web ads in the positive column. Everyone – including myself – have been predicting mobile to blow up like a smoker at a gas station for the past couple of years. It has not happened. At least not yet, that is.

Statistics such as the ones in the eMarketer article suggest that the proverbial shark should be jumped very soon. Total smartphone purchase intent, as represented in the following chart, is at an all-time high of 16.4% according to Change Wave Research. With 52% of those surveyed planning on buying an iPhone, the iAd purchase of Quattro means solidarity among that ad platform. Plus, their $148 Earnings per Thousand (in some instances) number doesn’t hurt either. Android, the other big market share winner doesn’t realize as high of a return on the AdMob platform they run, but I think it is coming soon.

Smartphone Purchase Intent

So, if you follow the money it is clear that demand from advertisers and app developers will be there soon. Why? It all comes down to purchase intent study. Whether it is SMS, mobile video, or mobile ads purchase intent is higher on mobile/smartphone devices than online in almost every category, says Mobile Marketer.

Not until recently have I seen data this compelling. Between the growth of smartphone purchase (where most of the mobile ads and purchase decisions are made) and the high dollar opportunities for brands, advertisers, and app developers alike – the explosion is as inevitable as death and taxes.

My recommendation to you, Mr./Mrs. Small Business Owner, is if you’re thinking about getting into mobile do so now. The benefits realized from a quality direct-response campaign could be colossal.  Just make sure that your program is integrated with the rest of your messages (as I will always tell you) because ad awareness, brand awareness, and acceptance are all raised with smart, relevant and well targeted mobile campaigns.

If you’re already using mobile, what ad platform do you use? Have you found one OS to be more or less effective for your products?