SessionM’s Lars Albright discusses the state of mobile ads

SessionM credits its recent success in driving engagement to its rewards-based ad network. Users who interact with an ad on the SessionM network receive virtual currency which they can then redeem for gift cards, sweepstake entries or donations to a selection of charities.

SessionM co-founder and CEO Lars Albright spoke with Inside Mobile Apps about the current state of mobile ads including why ad networks have to break away from banner ads, why advertisers have been slow to increase their spend on mobile and what to expect in the future from mobile ads.

Inside Mobile Apps: We’ve heard other ad providers say that the mobile ad network is over saturated with banner ad networks and video ad providers. What do you see as the next big opportunity for mobile ad providers?

Lars Albright, SessionM co-founder and CEO (pictured right): The use of banner-based advertising is over saturated and is proving to be limited in its effectiveness across a variety of different types of campaigns. I’m not saying that there’s no place for banner-based advertising because there certainly is and the overall industry is growing across the board. There’s so much room for improvement, optimizing the format, and the way consumers think about ads, to break outside of the banner-based experience. The next phase of advertising is coming up with new ways to get consumers to engage with the advertising content. There’s ways to make the creative experience one that’s truly entertaining, invaluable and interesting to consumers. There’s ways to recognize and reward consumers for their time, which is what we do at SessionM. We’ve adapted to the new digital consumer and we know that they expect to be recognized and rewarded for their time. If you do that within the ad experience, you can actually capture people’s attention incredibly effectively.

You have to think of high quality experiences that take advantage of the larger screens and faster connections speeds in mobile devices. Not just sitting back and trying to continue to serve up banners. Close to 90 percent of people find mobile banner ads irritating and 80 percent ignore them entirely.  We have to really be honest about what those ads are doing and how consumers are interacting with them. We have to break outside, we have to change it.

IMA: Smartphone penetration has reached 50 percent of all mobile phones in the U.S., but mobile marketers are still attempting to figure out the right ways to approach advertising on mobile. Why hasn’t anybody figured it out yet?

Albright: I wouldn’t agree with the statement that nobody has figured at least pieces of it out. There’s been a ton of progress that’s been made when you think where the ad market was just few years ago and where it is now. What’s going to make this really work is giving the buyers or agencies scalable ways to buy media to the right audience, with a rich media and high quality experience that also provides some sort of new context or value for the consumer.

There’s also a mix between really creative integrated experiences and scalable solutions. We don’t believe that you can come up with one-off solutions that require very in-depth integration because they just don’t scale. On the other hand, you can’t just shotgun out a bunch of poorly or moderately targeted banners and just take your low click-through rate and expect that the market is really going to excel either. You have to find that middle ground where you can buy at scale but you buy high-quality experiences like video, games, polls, or a whole bunch of different things, but you can do it efficiently and easily. If you talk to a lot of the buyers and media agencies, they’ll say that’s a key thing for them is being able to buy at scale easily and reporting that efficiently and easy for them to understand.