As Mobile Becomes Increasingly Crucial to Advertising, Brands Fail to Take Full Advantage

In-app viewability and the proper ad formats will lead to more engagement

Americans spend approximately 179 minutes on their phone every day. Getty Images
Headshot of Stephen Upstone

Mobile advertising offers marketers a wealth of opportunities, but transparency is still causing a headache for the digital marketing industry. Just last month, Unilever, one of the biggest brand advertisers, threatened to pull its ads from Facebook and Google.

Brands aren’t just worried about safe environments to advertise in. They’re also concerned if their massive digital spend is really working in the first place, and that starts with ad views. Right now, all industry eyes should be on mobile and particularly in-app viewability to get the most of mobile.

Mobile is no small side note in the overall marketing mix. Through 2017, 40 percent of all U.S. web traffic originated from mobile devices, and on average, Americans spent 179 minutes online daily through mobile browsing or via app last year. That equates to a massive pool of current and potential consumers for advertisers to reach.

So with all this opportunity, what’s the downside? Well, as a recent report by eMarketer found, the fragmentation of formats and measurement standards has been a stumbling block for mobile advertising. This makes viewability a work in progress.

Most digital advertisers rely on MRC standards as a benchmark, which says that 50 percent of the ad must be in view for two seconds. This applies to desktop, mobile and tablet. But these channels are inherently different and user behavior reflects this. Accordingly, viewability standards should be different across these channels.

Marketers currently have different measurement tags on mobile: VAST and VPAID, which were developed by the IAB to offer standardization across the industry.

At present, VAST 4.0 delivers in-app video measurement at scale and allows advertisers to detect fraud, but is limited in its ability to track viewability. VAST 4.0 has met the shortcomings of older versions of this technology, as previously 80 percent-plus of mobile experiences weren’t being tracked.

An alternative comes in the form of VPAID. Developed to allow for interactive ad experiences, it offers viewability verification and is more abundant than VAST 4.0 in mobile web environments, although it should be noted that the load time is lengthier. Marketers should understand the benefits and limitations of each, but know that they haven’t yet scaled up enough for full measurement of viewability.

Only by seeing users as individual people with unique preferences and interests can you engage them effectively.

What’s really needed is collaboration across the industry. With the IAB’s recent Open Measurement initiative, these challenges are being met head-on. The initiative offers a standardized SDK (Software Development Kit) integration for publishers. They need this technology to enable advertisers’ measurement tags to monitor and collect in-app advertising activity correctly. Previously, adoption was slow as each publisher had to integrate multiple SDK’s, causing latency and prompts to update apps. The IAB’s standardized SDK will offer mobile and in-app measurement at scale.

It’s worth remembering that views are half of the story. If you’re not using the right formats for users, then the ads that are viewed are less likely to lead to engagement. To make the most out of mobile views, marketers will need to adapt campaigns to fit the context.

A mobile-first strategy starts with a deep awareness of consumer behavior. Case in point: The 30-second unskippable video ad. This format works well on desktop, but its effectiveness isn’t the same on mobile. Keep in mind how smartphone formats and data can help you engage audiences in the unique context of mobile by building accurate consumer profiles. Only by seeing users as individual people with unique preferences and interests can you engage them effectively.

Mobile is an increasingly important channel for marketers, so brands need to be sure that ads are being seen in the first place. That means focusing on viewability measurement as well as using ad formats that work best for mobile. Ultimately, marketers need proof that their ad spend is working hard for them. To get viewability measurement right, the entire industry will need to work together so we can pin down mobile and in-app viewability.


@stephenupstone Stephen Upstone is CEO and co-founder of LoopMe.
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