Thinking small: Why mobile shouldn't constrain creativity

There's significant correlation between ROI and good mobile creative, as long as brands rethink their approach to mobile advertising, writes the chief innovation officer at Meredith Xcelerated Marketing

A new study about the efficacy of mobile compared to other marketing channels is making waves, but there’s a message in there about creativity that the industry might be missing.

The study in question is the Mobile Marketing Association’s "Smart Mobile Cross Marketing Effectiveness" (SMoX). Much like IAB’s cross-media studies from over a decade ago, SMoX is a comprehensive, multibrand review — featuring brands like Walmart, AT&T and Mastercard — that seeks to understand the economic value of mobile compared to other channels.

As is often the case, most of the industry reaction has focused on the optimal percentage of mobile media investment as part of a brand’s overall advertising mix. To be sure, SMoX does provide valuable cross-media insights. But one finding the industry is not talking about is the significant correlation between ROI and good mobile creative.

Brands that hone their mobile messaging can realize a 40% to 60% increase in ROI, the study found. That’s a boost worth pursuing.

So what does this mean for marketers? First, they should stop thinking about mobile ads as shrunken versions of desktop banners. Sophisticated brands consider the context of where consumers are and what they are doing to deliver more relevant content.

The best mobile ads are often not ads at all, but engaging experiences. Buying mobile impressions is not enough; marketers need to create mobile moments that take into account context in order to tailor content. This may expose the limitations of an automated approach to buying and message delivery.

To get mobile creative and content rocking, start by delivering content parity across all screens. Mobile isn’t content-lite. Consumers shouldn’t have to go from their mobile device to the desktop to feel satisfied. While accommodations for the screen size are necessary, the experience should feel consistent.This becomes more critical as consumers increasingly experience a brand’s content exclusively on  mobile devices.

Mobile content should align with what the user wants, given the environment they are in and the device type they are using. It needs to be crisp and relevant to each person’s unique mobile lifestyle.

Be direct to make mobile content easily digestible. Ensure that headlines are short and descriptive, and don’t bury the lead. Distraction is ever-present in the mobile world, so immediacy and instant-gratification are the expectations.

Recognize the cross-screen opportunities and limitations of mobile creative. A cross-screen content strategy should include creative components that can live on a variety of screens, not just created for one and applied on others. The ideal scenario for any cross-screen content is elasticity so that content is reusable to adapt to the different needs across different screens.

Play to the short attention spans in mobile by conveying versus saying. Use eye-catching images, movement and video to express information.

In SMoX, the Mobile Marketing Association’s findings are accurate and acute; marketers are underinvesting in mobile but investment alone is not enough. Brands need to place a greater emphasis on content planning and messaging, rather than a "spray and pray" approach.

Why settle for a 20% boost in media mix ROI, when — with just a little effort — it's easy to secure as much as 60%?

Douglas Rozen is chief innovation officer at Meredith Xcelerated Marketing.

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