Q&A With Anna Bager, GM Of The IAB’s Mobile Marketing Center Of Excellence

Look around you almost anywhere — on public transit, in a restaurant, at a sporting event, and even in the car — and it’s impossible to ignore the impact that mobile devices have had on our society in the past year. And that influence is only growing in significance. Needless to say, digital marketers go […]

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anna-bager-headshot-2Look around you almost anywhere — on public transit, in a restaurant, at a sporting event, and even in the car — and it’s impossible to ignore the impact that mobile devices have had on our society in the past year. And that influence is only growing in significance.

Needless to say, digital marketers go where consumer interest is strong and, in 2013, that meant smartphones and tablets.

There’s so much going on in this fast-moving space, so we jumped on the opportunity to buttonhole Anna Bager, the VP and GM of the Mobile Marketing Center of Excellence at the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB). She’s been named to Business Insider’s list of the most powerful women in mobile advertising for two years in a row, and the Swedish native has also served stints at Ericsson and IDC EMEA.

Q. If a company hasn’t yet been active in Mobile, what should its first steps be to adapt to the growing prominence of the platform?

For any company who is just now getting into Mobile, their first step should be to first understand the Mobile user experience and customer mindset and how that differs from the desktop environment. Conversely, it’s also important to understand marketer perceptions of and needs from mobile marketing.

Two great resources include a Multi-Dimensional, Multi-Platform study (PDF) done by one of our members, AOL, on how mobile impacts the life and behaviors of the consumer, and the IAB Mobile Marketing Center of Excellence second annual Marketer Perceptions study, which highlights challenges and opportunities for monetizing mobile.


Image via above mentioned AOL study

Of course, new entrants also need to have a Mobile strategy, not just a “me too” approach from Desktop to Mobile. The Mobile Center has compiled a comprehensive vendor list in our Tap into Mobile database to help new entrants find vendors to help build their mobile strategy and presence.

Q. What do you see retail businesses doing in 2014 to adjust to the “showrooming” phenomenon?

Understanding Mobile behavior and capitalizing on these “second screen” opportunities will be tantamount for Retailers in 2014. As we released in our Mobile Shopping study in November, Mobile now plays a part in each segment of the consumer purchase funnel.


Retailers who make better use of audience and location targeting, as well as dynamic creative, will be able to show the best offers to the right customers at the right place at the right time. Whether this is executed through the use of beacons or precise location targeting, this will be an important strategy for retailers to master in 2014.

Q. From what I’ve read, it sounds like you believe 2014 will be the year of responsive design. What factors do you see driving that trend and what do you think the result will be?

We are seeing the “born digital” generation really come into focus. That is, businesses and brands now have to be mindful of their consumers who grew up with rapidly evolving technology and expect their experiences to be seamless and intuitive across screens, devices and platforms.

Publishers and advertisers will be well served to have an omni-channel strategy from inception that accounts for flexible and customized execution across screens. I think the results will be an ability to better tailor and monetize the mobile consumer experience as well as some consolidation of niche players that only cater to one environment.

Q. There’s been a lot of debate about whether responsive/adaptive design could be detrimental to search engine results rankings — even results displayed on mobile phones. Do you have any opinion/thoughts on the subject?

On the contrary, I think responsive design will improve search engine results — especially on mobile. Google has already stated their intention to serve optimized content and sites higher in their smartphone and tablet search rankings. Additionally having a well-thought-out, responsive site will make it easier for engines to discover your site’s content and deem it as a relevant result.

Q. What kind of video content do you think is ideal for the mobile audience? Maybe you could give some examples of what would be suitable (length, type of content, etc.) and what wouldn’t be? Or does anything go?

We are still in the beginning stages of Mobile Video where we are testing many formats and beginning to understand what is resonating with the consumer. While we have yet to see any definitive research on the topic, there are a few guidelines from what we know about mobile that may translate well to mobile video.

Many times Mobile is about “on the go” moments. Getting in, getting the information you need, and getting out. As such it makes sense that short-form video which feels native to the site or application — and is relevant to the consumer — will do best. Also, because Social is such a big part of Mobile, videos that are easily shared, created or manipulated will also fare well for Mobile.

Q. What types of mobile ad units — especially new types — should we expect to begin seeing in 2014 and beyond? (By this I mean ads monetizing publisher content offered on mobile devices.)

Well, native ad units and video will be very important for mobile in 2014. In addition we can expect continued importance on social and in-stream ad experiences. The Mobile Rising Star units continue to gain traction and we may start to see the beginnings of adaptive ad design in 2014. HTML5 will also play a key role and publishers and advertisers will need to work to define guidelines, standards and measurement for these next generation formats.

Q. Do you have any thoughts on when mobile will become a more mature platform, achieving something like its maximum likely penetration in the U.S.? Do we have a long way to go or is this imminent? Have all the people who are going to get tablets and smart phones gotten them,or is there still a lot of room for growth?

There is still a lot of room for growth in Mobile adoption. In addition to smartphone penetration, the very nature of Mobile means that there are always new devices, versions, operating systems, screen densities, etc. for consumers to choose from.

Additionally, hybrid devices such a phablets, next generation readers and game consoles and “ultrabooks” may eventually become the preferred standard, phasing out our old definitions of “mobile” and “desktop”. I expect that eventually most technologies will be mobile – and we definitely have a lot of upside growth potential before this is the case.

Q. What consumer behavior trends/patterns have surprised you as mobile has taken hold? (If any)

What has been most surprising to me has been the rate of adoption and adaptability of younger generations. I think we have all seen a young child who tries to interact with a book or a magazine as if it’s a tablet or a phone and quickly becomes frustrated with the “broken” touch screen.

As technology continues to evolve, the next generation of consumers aren’t thinking of things in terms of device or platform. They are expecting the brands they love and services they want to be seamless across the plethora of digital media currently available. They will expect to be able to access shopping, content discovery, games and a host of other services across any device at any time in a way that is intuitive and effortless.

Q. Can you give some insight into how a company should go about deciding whether to focus on their web site, or whether to develop a mobile app? What should be the factors that they consider?

This is a good question. Not everyone needs a mobile app. Apps should only be a focus when there is extra benefit to the consumer in using an app as opposed to the mobile web. This could be allowing for more customization and persistent preferences or consumers receiving special offers, information or being able to engage with a brand in a meaningful way.

Even for companies that feel it’s strategically sound to develop apps, this should not be to the detriment of the site. Having a website that works well across all platforms and devices is table stakes. Having a killer app does not eliminate the need for a good site.

Q. Are there any new technologies bubbling up (maybe like iOS’ iBeacon) that you think have great potential for marketers? What should marketers be keeping an eye on, technology-wise?

I think there will be many technologies in 2014 that represent great opportunities for marketers. Many of these technologies will center around being able to obtain more precise user information; be it user location, interests, purchase history, etc.

While I think it’s early to specifically name what these technologies will be, marketers should be keeping an eye on how to protect consumer privacy and trust and how to provide choices and transparency to their audiences.

Q. What new mobile devices (like Google Glass or wristwatches) do you see becoming more popular in 2014, if any?

While wearables is an attractive category, I think it could still be a few years before we see these begin to gain a lot of traction. At issue will be the ability to scale content, services and experiences across an infinite number of screens and devices. Additionally, many of these will call old standards of privacy and transparency into question. While these early technologies are great for inspiring these new considerations, I don’t think we’ll see widespread adoption in 2014.

About the author

Pamela Parker
Pamela Parker is Research Director at Third Door Media's Content Studio, where she produces MarTech Intelligence Reports and other in-depth content for digital marketers in conjunction with Search Engine Land and MarTech. Prior to taking on this role at TDM, she served as Content Manager, Senior Editor and Executive Features Editor. Parker is a well-respected authority on digital marketing, having reported and written on the subject since its beginning. She's a former managing editor of ClickZ and has also worked on the business side helping independent publishers monetize their sites at Federated Media Publishing. Parker earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.

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