Mobile has become the must-have channel for media plans, with global mobile ad spend projected to hit a whopping $31 billion this year according to eMarketer. And as consumer adoption of tablets and smartphones continues to skyrocket, marketers are compelled to create plans to reach these on-the-go users when they are making purchasing decisions. At the same time, marketers are relying on a format that still has a long way to go when compared to display advertising. When will mobile advertising be held to the same standards as display and prove its contribution to the bottom line?
Cross channel ‘apples to apples’ comparisons between display and mobile are not yet common practice since, for the most part, even with the explosion in spend fueling it, mobile advertising remains a black box.
While mobile advertising is available both in-app and on the mobile web, advertisers commonly prefer to reach consumers in the in-app environment, which is considered more of a quality environment that may lead to a higher quality engagement. Approximately 75% of mobile budgets are geared towards in-app. However, it is difficult to measure in-app placement, since it is technologically complicated to obtain the data needed to evaluate in-app performance, and the plethora of screen sizes and operating systems (iOS, Android, and others) do not help in simplifying matters. Additionally, the lack of ‘cookies’ that we all love to hate, adds to the complexity of uniform tracking, especially in iOS. The industry has yet to adopt standards to help mainstream the channel, and new formats are constantly popping up, confusing things even further. As a result, advertisers have to resort to guessing the quality of their mobile media buys.
While mobile web is very similar to display advertising, where advertisers have access to similar metrics to evaluate media quality, they are only getting a partial picture without in-app insights in their reporting and do not truly understanding their overall mobile campaigns.
The lack of insights in mobile advertising trickles down to skewed attribution models. First, there’s the issue of false engagement from ‘fat fingers’ when a consumer accidentally clicks on an ad (it happens to all of us all the time!). This alone sways attribution modeling, counting clicks for ads mistakenly engaged. Second, rendering can also be an obstacle, since it can take too long for ads to load. In mobile, connectivity plays a big part, with ads loading on wi-fi having a better chance to render properly. Further, smaller ad sizes load and render faster than larger ads and have a better chance of being actually viewed. Attribution models that do not appropriately account for ads that didn’t render properly and therefore were not in-view are substantially flawed.
In order for advertisers to evaluate the impact of their mobile advertising component on their overall campaign, they must hold it to the same performance standards they hold all of the other components in their campaign. In fact, anything short of analyzing all channels by the same standards is hurting the advertiser.
These measurement challenges are typical growing pains for any new channel. When online advertising first started, advertisers were happy to just have banners out there. No one talked about viewability, engagement, or even targeting. When social media first came on the scene, no one knew how to take it on. Native is currently going through that very same phase. With the maturing of our industry, we are seeing advertisers optimize and improve the in-banner experiences and social ads. Sophistication is an inevitable part of the evolution of all channels. In time, newness wears off, and advertisers begin to demand real ROI. We have now reached that point in mobile.
Advertisers are nonetheless spending money in mobile, because they intuitively believe in the inherent value of the channel. But marketers should be able to look at the entirety of their campaigns, broken down by display, video, and mobile, and evaluate all components ‘apples to apples.’ Once we achieve that, we can truly take advantage of all the great things that mobile has to offer. It is time for mobile to take the next step in its evolution, where we move forward from strong intuition to true insights.
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