Stop advertising on mobile - you're missing the bigger picture

Kristien Wendt: brands haven't fully understood mobile
Kristien Wendt: brands haven't fully understood mobile

It's been an interesting time for advertising recently, writes Kristien Wendt, partner at Proelios Brand Gaming.

TV advertising celebrated 60 years on air, the 67th Emmy awards saw non-advertising broadcasters - Netflix (Orange is the New Black), Amazon (Transparent) and HBO (Game of Thrones, Olive Kitteridge and Veep) - walk away with the lion’s share of awards.

Newspapers are adopting online subscription-based models, and ad-blocking software is gaining momentum on mobile and desktop.

From every angle, the trends are showing that consumers are moving away from that tried and tested advertising business model. Advertising turns people off.

The evolution of advertising acceptability

Coronation Street once had the highest viewership in the UK of any entertainment programme.

We all love that story of the National Grid having to bring on more power during the commercial breaks because everyone went to make a cup of tea. Even though there were millions of consumers staring at the kettle rather than the TV, the commercial break was a normal and accepted part of the TV viewing experience.

Fast forward a few years and then came the TiVo and Sky+ technology which enabled consumers to fast forward through the ad breaks. In 2013, was estimated* that $75 billion worth of advertising in the US alone wasn’t even seen!

And now in 2015 with an increasing on-demand culture, advertising is becoming less relevant and more intrusive.

Mobile ads are changing

Now let’s be fair here – what we’re talking about is how advertising fits within the most popular platforms people are using today, primarily TV, digital and most importantly mobile.

Native advertising within Facebook works well because these ads are better targeted, but most importantly they’re not intrusive and are intermingled with user content. They don’t interrupt the consumer experience – you dip in and out.

In mobile games, the bulk of in-game advertising promotes other mobile games, such as Candy Crush and Clash of Clans, to generate more players. They are already in the ‘gaming sales funnel’ and are more open to new gaming experiences. This approach works to a point.

Free-to-play mobile gaming has grown to be the main business model of developers where they can supplement their in-app revenue with in-game advertising.

But recently, we’re seeing trends where developers charge consumers a premium for an ad-free version of their games.

There’s also the fact that cost per acquisition is rising, because in-game advertising is becoming less effective.

The immersive and interactive nature of gaming means that players are primarily focused on gameplay, not engaging with advertising. Have you ever wondered why you haven’t seen successful in-game advertising on established gaming platforms such as PC and console?

In short, we’ve reached a point where the user experience is now as important as the content.

Brands must learn from changing habits

 A recent study showed advertising-led websites opened three seconds faster with ad-blocking software. Three seconds! It’s easy to see why consumers move on when ‘on demand’ content becomes ‘hang on, before you see what you came for, here’s a load of sales messages.’

Despite all of this, brands and agencies have been resistant to change. Agencies have always sold what brands want to buy, so agencies keep selling what the brands keep buying.

They, in turn, rely on agencies to give them new directions and ideas, but this is changing. In July, the IPA highlighted that the relationship between agencies and brands has never been worse, with a number of top brands even bringing their advertising services in-house.

Why are brands and agencies in this position? Coming out of the worst recession in 70 years is a pretty good reason, so aversion to risk and innovation is understandable.

There are exceptions to this rule, but on the whole it’s within this innovation vacuum where new ideas outside the advertising industry have grown and developed. That’s why we’re seeing agencies and brand owners trying to catch up by embracing technology start-ups and internal think tanks.

But we still have a problem in regards to the evolution of the advertising medium itself and how brands reach consumers in an ever changing digital world.

Mobile is more personal than other media

Mobile is so new that we don’t have a ‘one size fits all’ element which brands can feed these sales messages into. An amazing stat is that less than 1% of mobile ads are ever clicked through.

This is accepted by many brands because it’s based on the old ad model, meaning ‘at the very least they’re getting awareness on mobile devices’, but mobile offers so much more.

There are many apps available which enable consumers to cherry pick what they want on their devices. They choose apps which help, engage, entertain and enhance their lifestyles. In turn, app and game developers use data analytics to precisely measure every element of interaction in real-time and respond directly, enhance the experience and ultimately retain the consumer.

Mobile app real estate is key. Brands need to embrace the reality that mobile isn’t just an advertising platform but a direct connection to the consumer from which brands can develop a real dialogue.

Mobile, in whatever guise, is much more personal to consumers than TV or PCs.

It’s where we keep our personal information, our memories, how we communicate, where we consume our media and play our games; mobile is now what engages us and what entertains us.

It’s a place where the internet has become the window to our world and where we decide what we want out of it – and we want to control what we consume on mobile.

Throw out old thinking

So what’s the answer? Firstly, stop shoehorning ‘advertising’ into mobile – it’s effectively a 19th century media being pushed onto a 21st century platform.

For brands, stop accepting that advertising is all you can do on mobile. Look at how mobile is moving forward with virtual reality, augmented reality, 4K screens or social media.

Stop believing that the advertising creative or concept alone will build up traction - it’s not just the ad, it’s the platform. And above all, stop interrupting!

Look at what is popular on mobile, look at what consumers want – they want interaction, to be informed, educated, to share, to be heard and to be entertained. Throw out the old thinking and focus on what really works on mobile and works for the brand.

Above all, look towards longevity; don’t spend money on a media campaign which lasts weeks, when you can spend it on an app which you update, respond to and link to your other channels which will deliver months of engagement and sales.

Think of apps as brand ambassadors which can connect with consumers 24/7 and which really earn their real estate presence on mobile devices.

In short, adopt a mobile medium which attracts the consumer to the brand and stop just ‘advertising’ to them. Mobile offers so much more. 

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