Facebook, Twitter and YouTube Have Different Mobile Ad Strengths

Notable marketers riff at a roundtable event

A quartet of panelists speaking about audience targeting at the Mobile Media Upfront this week essentially agreed that Facebook, Twitter and Google/YouTube are going to continue attracting more brand dollars due to their advances in targeting the smartphone-toting consumer.

Earlier this month, YouTube made waves by revealing its Google Preferred platform, which lets marketers buy ads against the most popular 1 percent and 5 percent of the videos on the platform. With millennials watching video on their phones instead of desktops (or even TV) and older folks starting to follow suit, YouTube's initiative appears to sneakily take aim at future mobile budgets.

But Adam Shlachter, head of media activation at DigitasLBi, suggested that YouTube needs to handle mobile video ads with care. "I think when YouTube looks at their inventory and they see either a younger audience consuming it predominantly on mobile devices—or certainly with content being consumed on the go in different mind-sets in different moments—they have to figure out a way to package that, to work with [agencies] and our clients to take advantage of it appropriately," he said.

Shlachter added that the Google-owned video site should not "bomb people with 30-second spots that they've already been bombed with on other screens." 

At the same time, the data-based targeting being offered by Twitter and Facebook seemed to have brand and agency players particularly amped.

"Twitter Promoted Tweets can be aligned with whatever the objective or goal is," remarked Cheng, vp of mobile strategy and solutions at M&C Saatchi Mobile. "But what's really interesting, different than Facebook, is that Twitter doesn't really have much audience-interest targeting—[it's] more about the behavioral targeting based on what people are tweeting. That's pretty powerful to start profiling out what type of user they are, for example, with TV ads. A lot of commercials now are having hashtags and TV personalities that align with the brand. Things like that allow you to really extend the [television] experience to do better targeting on Twitter, and that kind of cross-platform stepping stone [represents] Twitter leading the way." 

Mat Harris is head of ad products at Tapjoy, which pitches an incentives-based system that helps advertisers engage on-the-go consumers. He singled out Twitter's acquisition of MoPub as a potential mobile advertising game-changer.

"It's more [about] what Twitter can do for MoPub than what MoPub can do for Twitter because it kind of brings us back to a mobile exchange," Harris said. "Every ad request that comes across, every ad response, which bids are winning, which bids are not winning, we can actually now take that data and have deeper insights about those users because of what Twitter is and how [often] Twitter is on most of our devices. So that amount of data, that amount of clarity in data is just going to be huge."

During a rapid-fire discussion on Monday in New York's midtown, Sasha Norkin, vp of marketing at Barnes & Noble Nook, offered that she's seen success in geofencing tests on mobile networks to drive consumers into her company's bookstores. She also spoke to positive results from B&N's direct-response mobile efforts via Facebook, whether to drive the brand's app installs or encourage e-commerce purchases.

But Norkin and her co-panelists also pointed to the challenges of creating visually compelling mobile ads when the space's ecoystem is so fragmented. There are unit standards, but the industry could use more, they said.

"And I think from an advertiser perspective, it comes back to performance," Norkin commented. "Is the work you put into it [worth] what you get out of it? Because you have to do a whole lot of work and testing, and you can only do so many things."

Shlachter from DigitasLBI, then quipped, "I like to say: Is the juice worth the squeeze? I stole that from a dozen different people who claimed it."

And with an audience of a few hundred in tow and more budget flowing to the smartphone/tablet world, the discussions around mobile advertising are only getting more serious.

After all, eMarketer recently projected mobile ads would constitute a $31.4 billion marketplace in 2014.

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