Mobile Through the Screen of Possibility: IAB Panel Discussion

I had the privilege of moderating a great panel discussion at Google’s new HQ in Singapore in November. Talking with the senior execs from Wundeman, MediaCom, Medialets and OMD at the IAB’s Mobile Through the Screen of Possibility event, provided delegates, largely from media agencies, with wonderful insights into how smart businesses are blending the skills sets of creativity and data insight to drive successful mobile marketing campaigns at scale.

We’re spending nearly half of our media time on mobile — and in fact, when you break it down, women are spending just over half their media time on smartphones. And with Millennials, the devices are taking up nearly two-thirds of their attention.

Put very simply, if you’re wondering when the mobile-first world starts, the answer is that it already has. If you want to be more precise it happened for different media owners at different stages, but generally, first half of 2016 is when smartphone attention and the accompanying advertising budget overtook desktop and tablet.

Fortunately, my panelists – all mobile veterans – were not the type who only wanted to pat the industry on the back. The content of the conversation we had highlighted both the opportunities, as well as the challenges, facing the digital advertising industry when it comes to harnessing mobile. Indeed, with lots of brands now investing in mobile advertising, the sector is growing fast across Asia, but it’s not quite as easy as it may look.

Perhaps the primary theme to emerge from the discussion was the importance of investing more budget in mobile creative. The panel felt the situation was improving – slowly – but there were signs that brands were starting to think more about the unique qualities of mobility in order to make the consumer experience on mobile better.

Traditionally, the largest part of marketing budgets have been ringfenced for bigger screens, but improving relevance to consumers through better creative formats on mobile will drive more engagement. Thankfully for Blis, more location data is playing its part here. As we harness more machine-learning tools to make sense of bigger location data sets, we can start to make ads much more relevant to the physical places that consumers are inhabiting in both real-time and the future.

Consumers are also becoming increasingly comfortable with sharing their location data. Why? Because sharing location increases the value and usefulness we get out of using our favourite apps. Consumers are far more likely to keep and use an app that uses location data to send them personalised and relevant brand messages than they are to keep an app that every now and then gives me a deal for a store located on the other end of town. Which would you prefer?

The key is the value we receive from giving out our data; if we get something in return for sharing information, chances are we won’t even think twice about giving these apps access. The panel hoped that publishers will step up a level in making this value exchange better and more transparent for consumers in 2017.

The discussion moved on to look at how best we use data and technology to identify how mobile ads are performing, in other words viewability metrics and attribution. How are technological developments and innovation helping the industry to achieve this goal? Well that conversation was so deep that it deserves a blog post all of its own! And given that Blis has just announced a partnership on viewability with MOAT, we will come back to this very shortly.

85 percent of mobile advertising budgets are spent with two big companies. The panel felt there are big commercial risks in only focusing on these platforms and it is key for brands to understand the benefits of looking beyond so-called “walled gardens”.

Retaining control of data, being able to communicate with all end-users, not just uses if these two big services, and the continued innovation that companies like Blis are working on every day. Some of this new innovation will become clear in Q1 as Blis works towards Futures.

And then there were just screens. After years of digital marketers talking about television, desktop, laptop, tablet and smartphones, we have come to a turning point. Are we not now at a stage of not needing to talk about different channels? Isn’t a television, just a really big screen and a smartphone a small one, with desktop and tablets in between?

There are obvious creative considerations to adjust a campaign to be appropriate for different size screens, but that’s all we’re talking about now — differently sized screens. There is no desktop, mobile, laptop, television and tablet — just differently sized windows through which consumers are peering into their digital worlds.

Evidently this claim struck a chord with attendees because when one of the panellists, when asked what was the one thing about mobile in the industry that he’d change in 2017, he replied “getting rid of mobile departments in agencies”! In other words, stop silo’ing mobile and make it cross-department.

Mobility is not about formatting video for a small screen. Mobility is about understanding where users are, where they are going and what they want to accomplish. Mobile is all about devices but mobility is all about peoples’ lives.

So the panel all agreed that the real opportunity is in contextual relevancy. We have a huge amount of data today but this is both a blessing and a curse. It can lead to assumptions about consumers that are based only on cookie data – sets of behaviours that we attribute personalities and characteristic from. But it doesn’t provide the “why” – the understanding of what is motivating consumers.

Technology underpins everything that the digital ad industry does. It’s how we generate an understanding of people and how we understand and optimise the effectiveness of client campaigns. The panel strongly felt that the industry must tie all of this together with a simple goal: make technology deliver a competitive advantage to clients every day.

Is mobile marketing at last set to fulfil its true potential? If marketers and developers can make small-screen advertising relevant and engaging, then the answer is a resounding YES!

Mobile is driving real outcomes and results for advertisers. What we’re seeing now and certainly into next year is that the mobile device is going to be the hub for more and more aspects of our lives. We’re at an exciting point in the evolution of mobile – where real, sophisticated campaigns are resonating positively with consumers at scale. The next 18 months will provide smart, fast-moving marketers with an opportunity to engage with, and take advantage of the mobile ecosystem, while their competition plays catch-up.

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