Mobile App Opps: Rethinking the Advertising Experience

Sep 27, 2013

Article ImageMobile advertising is on the rise-who do you know who doesn't have a smart phone these days? In fact, according to the Pew Internet Project's research on mobile technology, 91% of American adults have a cell phone-56% have a smartphone. That level of penetration presents both opportunities and challenges to content providers hoping not only to connect with their audiences, but also to monetize those interactions in some way.

"The shift to mobile has sort of followed a pattern that many other shifts have seen," says Oliver Roup, CEO of VigLink, a San Francisco Bay area company that works with organizations to help maximize mobile earnings. It's not, though, a pattern that leads to positive results. What most have done, says Roup, is consider mobile a smaller version of the web. So, they think for instance that they can take banner ads that have "kind of worked" on the web, and make them smaller.

Unfortunately, he says, the mobile experience is vastly different from the web experience. So different, in fact, that he predicts that over time organizations will be trending away from web in favor of mobile. "If you're in the lucky position to be able to think about what you want to do from a blank sheet of paper perspective, I would almost take the challenge to think about being mobile only," he says. "Obviously there will always be a web, but we really do expect mobile to become the dominant platform not that far into the future."

So, if mobile advertising isn't simply about delivering "smaller" experiences, what is it about? VigLink offers a "native monetization solution" that avoids interrupting, annoying or distracting the audience, says Roup.

With native advertising, the ad becomes part of the user experience or, as Roup says, "the ad becomes the content itself." While an official definition of "native advertising" and the myriad of forms it might take is still under debate, there is agreement about what it does: produce monetary results.

A report by IPG Media Lab and Sharethrough, for instance, indicates that consumers look at native ads 53% more frequently than display ads, and that native ads registered 18% higher life in purchase and 9% life for brand affinity responses than banner ads.

Peggy Anne Salz, is chief analyst and founder of MobileGroove and the author of several books, including The Everything Guide to Mobile Apps (Adams Media, 2013). Mobile devices, says Salz, have evolved to serve a "companion function" which is far different from previous experiences with online content. "When you're looking at a newspaper, or watching TV, your mobile phone is going to be beside you-it's your constant companion in a way that's different from what it was before." That means, she says, that advertising on mobile must be "a fluid, frictionless advertising experience-it's about information, entertainment even, and it has to fit into that mode. Advertising cannot be simply broadcast on a mobile device-it has to have some level of engagement; it needs to be personal and relevant."

The idea of native advertising allowing links that can readily be tracked back to their source (allowing the source to receive compensation for those links) is appealing, says Salz. "For me, it's worth exploring at two levels," she says. "It's aligned with the form factor and the technical demands of advertising because it will always work-the link is just there. It's also aligned with the context and the value of the content."

Ultimately, she says, content providers must have an entire arsenal, or toolbox, of options available to them to engage their audiences based on individual audience needs. "The concept of ‘one size fits all' is gone," she says. "That's old school. New school is all about engagement and relevancy. At the end of the day it's a ‘personal device'."

Roup agrees and encourages content providers to "track mobile very individually and try to understand your user behavior on mobile, specifically." It's a mistake, he says, to view traffic as a whole, blended across both mobile and web. "Blending the two will give you very confusing signals," he says. "Think of mobile as a distinct platform and not just a small version of your web site."

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock.)