Go ahead and swing at mobile, marketers — even if you miss
Do you have what it takes to win at mobile? Columnist Merrily McGugan discusses the challenges marketers face with mobile and what you can do to hit a home run.
Let’s get something straight today that every major league baseball player already knows: It’s impossible to hit a home run if you don’t step up to the plate and take a decent swing at the ball.
It sounds obvious, right? In order to smash it out of the park, the batter needs a certain level of knowledge of the mechanics of hitting, a solid bat, a helmet, some batting gloves, cleats — and maybe a final prayer or two for good luck.
But here’s the catch: They also need a certain willingness to go all in and give it their all, whether that means hours of practice beforehand or a powerful swing in a World Series game. Success or failure is determined only after someone decides to face the challenge at the plate using tools and baseball-related skills that have been developed specifically for that purpose.
If the game were basketball, the tools and skills needed to score a basket would differ from those necessary to bring a ball player around the bases and triumphantly back to home plate. You don’t hit a basketball with a bat; you can’t dribble a baseball with your hand.
So why is it that so many marketers in the industry are still trying to win at the mobile advertising game using tools, tactics and creative specifically designed for desktop? Unsurprisingly, those marketers end up bunting basketballs left and right with baseball bats.
Mobile has been around for years. In fact, IBM debuted the world’s first smartphone in 1992. And although the smartphones of the ’90s were nothing like those of today, today’s smartphones and the ways consumers use them haven’t really changed all that much since the iPhone 4.
Where there is internet, there is the possibility for mobile advertising; where there are apps, the possibility for (and the reality of) mobile app advertising is present.
In a report published last year, eMarketer predicted that US programmatic mobile spend would account for more than 60.5 percent of US programmatic display spend in 2016. Marketers are already spending on mobile, and spending a lot.
Why is it, then, that mobile remains surprisingly challenging to get one’s glove around — a mystery the majority of marketers are still waiting to solve, a perpetual hot topic for panels at industry events and conferences worldwide?
3 big hurdles
When it comes to delivering on the full potential programmatic mobile has to offer, marketers face three primary challenges:
- developing creative specifically for mobile and mobile’s unique viewing experience;
- accurate cross-device attribution and frequency management; and
- allocating optimal levels of budget to mobile.
Mobile holds rich rewards and vast opportunities for the marketers willing to invest in the time and tools needed to win the mobile game. Mobile has inexpensive CPMs, bot and site fraud rates of less than two percent on average and accommodates a slew of creative sizes and formats proven to deliver audience engagement that far surpasses that of desktop.
But those ready to take a swing need to remember that mobile requires expertise, creative and a performance measurement system that differs from other channels in the same way basketball differs from baseball.
3 things to bear in mind
Here are three considerations serious mobile players should keep in mind when honing their mobile game:
• Vertical video creative: It might seem counterintuitive, but precisely because mobile phones are held in the vertical position most of the time, video formats should mimic that orientation and fill the entire vertical screen. Most “mobile video” is a standard television spot played on a mobile device with the device still held vertically. The video is not full screen; black bars border the creative.
Snapchat is one of the first social engagement platforms to pioneer branded vertical video, with engagement statistics that back up their value proposition. Shooting vertical video for mobile and traditional 16:9 for desktop requires an additional investment in its own right, but consider it the price of admission to the mobile big league championships.
• Cross-device measurement technology: In order to get a complete understanding of the influence mobile has on the path to purchase, cross-device attribution software is necessary. Investing in a third-party technology platform that tracks, weights and measures the role of mobile across all devices in a campaign is an additional expense, but a necessary one for marketers who are serious about understanding the impact mobile has on the consumer path to purchase.
In the Mobile Marketing Association’s 2016 SMoX study, MasterCard, Walmart, AT&T and The Coca-Cola Company all saw a rise in their campaign awareness (1.9x to 4.8x) when mobile was accurately factored into the attribution model.
• Optimal mobile spend: Although video has made headlines in the past due to its high CPMs, mobile inventory is far less expensive. Many mobile ad unit sizes remain underutilized, and many mobile bids are far higher than they need to be for specific geographies or unit sizes.
Platforms such as DataXu’s (my employer) are able to access trillions of mobile app and mobile web impressions available for purchase in more than 50 countries, and inventory is available on Android, iOS, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry, S40, Symbian and other devices.
No matter the budget or location, it is possible to go to bat with mobile without breaking the bank. Understanding the true cost of mobile inventory and allocating budget appropriately will prevent over-investment and will improve efficiency.
Mobile isn’t new, cost-prohibitive or mysterious. With the right mobile-specific strategy, tools and teammates, marketers can hit (and keep on hitting) home runs. So go ahead and swing at mobile, marketers — even if you miss at first. At least you’ll be in the game.