Mobile's Number Nightmare

By MediaCom InSites Archives
Cover image for  article: Mobile's Number Nightmare

Clients will only get serious when they have the measurable reassurance that mobile delivers, says MediaCom's Ben Phillips.

If we believe anything as media professionals, it should be that money follows audience. While specific business objectives can influence how dollars are allocated, the most rational approach is to invest ad dollars in the places we'll actually find consumers.

As digital advertising spend increases, it's encouraging to see mobile taking a more prominent role, but are we doing everything we can to responsibly promote mobile to clients?

While mobile advertising is expected to exceed 50% of digital spend by 2016 (and around 22% of overall global ad spend by 2018), we could be doing so much more to support this evolution.

To be honest, what mobile lacks right now are the numbers to demonstrate that it can deliver -- and this measurement crisis is the root cause of clients' reluctance to invest in the medium. My conversations with clients tend to focus on three issues: viewability, attribution and cross-device measurement. Until we as an industry can provide the reassurance marketers expect in these areas, consumer mobile minutes will run far ahead of advertising revenue.

Viewability is high on everyone's agenda: No one wants to buy an impression that a human cannot see. Back in December, the ANA said global advertisers could lose $6.3 billion this year in wasted ads due to this painful problem.

At least desktop has an IAB definition. In mobile, we don't even have a standard definition of viewability, so comparisons (often so helpful to clients) are useless. If Wanamaker's challenge still holds, and we can't even tell a client which of their mobile ads are seen, how can we sell them?

If we could eliminate unseen ads or at least stop our clients from paying for them, mobile engagement rates would double.

Attributionis another core issue. What we often want to know is which of our mobile web ads have actually persuaded consumers to download an app.

The problem is that standard metrics often don't cover the link between the ad and the app download. We know how many times the app has been downloaded, but can't identify what actually persuaded consumers to do so.

While WPP's purchase of MediaLets helps us solve this challenge, we also need to ensure attribution modeling integrates new technologies such as iBeacons, along with tracking all the way through to store visitation lift. 

Techniques such as tag management, which have become standard on desktop, could also be applied to mobile with greater rigor, as could new buying metrics like Cost Per Installation.  Ultimately, we need to be able to capture the lifetime value of a (mobile) customer, and that's what's missing for a lot of advertisers.

Cross-device ad management is the final frontier. No one wants to serve the same ad to the same consumer on a tablet and phone (or even multiple times on the same device) just because we don't know any better.

This is where Facebook and Google are cleaning up today, because they can use unique IDs to produce frequency caps, for example. It's much harder to get a brand to sign on to other networks and platforms, even when we can make a strong case that they're more effective.

Alternatives such as Drawbridge and Conversant provide a probabilistic solution, which helps; Nielsen recently found that Drawbridge's connected consumer graph was 97.3% accurate.

In the future, a unique ID will be able to track and measure all of a consumer's activities and engagement, both step by step and in total, from the connected car to the wearable to mobile to desktop and back again. This will go a long way toward addressing our three key issues. That'll be a great moment, but -- as things stand today -- what's holding mobile back isn't the lack of audience engagement or amazing experiences; it's the data advertisers need to know their money is well spent and to understand how to improve the next time around.

The opinions and points of view expressed in this commentary are exclusively the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of management or associated bloggers.

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