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Understanding the brand impact of mobile advertising

15 Apr 2013  |  Hannah Walley 
Hannah Walley

Mobile advertising is facing a serious crisis according to many experts and the issue has dominated recent Newsline editorial and MediaTel conferences. So what advice is being given to mobile marketers? Here, Millward Brown's Hannah Walley shares her thoughts...

With 51% of people in the UK owning a smartphone, and penetration increasing by 20% in 2011 alone, the uptake of web enabled mobile phones is increasing rapidly. In terms of spend, mobile advertising was worth £203 million in the UK last year, with display advertising on mobiles more than doubling year on year to almost £69 million.

So how can advertisers get ahead of their competitors in the mobile space?

The fragmentation of mobile advertising

Mobile as an advertising platform encompasses many areas including mobile display ads, in-app advertising, video, gaming, SMS, QR codes, search and location based marketing. Within each of these areas there are multiple stakeholders which makes the process of planning and measuring a mobile campaign very challenging.

Looking at the data of over 300 mobile campaigns, across various industry verticals, we know that mobile advertising works and can deliver at every stage of the purchase funnel. However, the fragmented mobile landscape, along with uncertainty among advertisers and media agencies around the ROI of mobile advertising, is collectively slowing the adoption of mobile as an integral part of the media mix for many brands.

While research into the effectiveness of online campaigns is now fairly common place, brands are still reluctant to invest in research to evaluate the effectiveness of their mobile activity. Even though Millward Brown's own research shows that mobile campaigns greatly outperform online on the key branding metrics (from awareness through to intent) brands remain wary about investing money into mobile.

Marketers need to adopt an approach that will allow them to navigate the risks of changing established media allocations, allow new channels such as mobile to be given a chance to shine and that will enable their media plans evolve. At Millward Brown we would recommend brands to embrace a 70|20|10 framework for their media and research investments.

Used by global mega-brands as a principle for education, training and innovation it can also be applied to brands' use of media. This concept partly involves placing 10% of your budget into experimenting with new and emerging channels. For many brands, mobile currently falls into this area and by placing 10% of your budget against new and emerging channels you are already preparing the way for innovation.

The power of mobile display advertising

There are a number of factors contributing to the high performance we see of mobile advertising against traditional brand metrics; the ads are highly visible with the proportion of the screen devoted to the advertisements being much larger than display ads on a PC or laptop screen. Secondly, the ad copy tends to be more focused to fit within the space available.

The growing penetration of Smartphones in the UK will undeniably see mobile ad spend quicken with large displays and touch-screen capabilities making it easier for users of mobile devices to access digital content twenty-four-seven while also improving the platform for mobile ads.

However, it's worth bearing in mind that there is a degree of novelty in all emerging media platforms, and it is likely that the impact of mobile advertising will start to stabilise as this wears off. Brands should be taking advantage of the novelty and impact of emerging mobile devices for advertising, before the advantage fades.

The size of the mobile screen does restrict what you can do with a standard banner ad, in terms of space to communicate the brand, message and call-to-action.

Full screen or interstitial ads are a good alternative when used properly, as they allow more space to communicate key messaging, as well as provide more opportunities to engage the audience and offer interactive features. However, these ad formats are more disruptive and can potentially annoy users, so the content of these ads needs to be well thought through to achieve the maximum impact.

Over the coming months we expect to see developments in the types of ad units available, and the variety of targeting options available (by device, location, vertical), which will lead to a significant increase in the number of publishers and advertisers embracing mobile as an advertising platform.

As mobile advertising becomes a more accepted part of the media mix and media plans, like online display and social media are now, it will become more cluttered and harder to break through. So it is imperative that brands take advantage of the channel now while it is at its most impactful.

Mobile display advertising best practice

Whilst, on average, mobile campaigns prove to be very effective, this is not a guarantee. The creative execution is key and there are a number of things to bear in mind when developing mobile ads:

  • Start off with clear objectives for the mobile activity; is it to communicate a campaign message, deliver a call to action, build brand engagement or add reach?
  • Do not simply adopt the same creative approach you are using for your online campaign for your mobile activity.
  • The location of a brand name or logo within a mobile ad can have a strong impact on advertising recall.
  • Clear and persistent branding is important for brand awareness.
  • Encouraging interactivity and engagement are advantageous for mobile campaigns.


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