Road Map To Mobile-First Advertising

By John Snyder, Grapeshot CEO

What a privilege to be invited onto the Mobile C-Suite panel during Advertising Week in New York City.   As excited as I am to celebrate the progress and promise of mobile advertising, I'm more keen to have  an honest and thoughtful discussion regarding the major challenges faced by the mobile space with people who can overcome them.  Fundamentally, most advertising on mobile is not welcomed by consumers. And until we change that, we will hand our market over to the ad blockers.

All of us with a vested interest in the success of digital advertising, like my fellow panelists from Google, Facebook and Frito-Lay, have the collective ability and the individual responsibility to ensure advertising is relevant to audiences and is sufficiently engaging.   That level of dedication and cooperation is what's required to put ad blockers out of business.

Apple's decision to make ad blocking a feature available to consumers in its new iOS 9 mobile software was met with much concern from publishers complaining that it would badly damage their monetization models.  But underneath all the belly-aching, one thing publishers can't deny is the relentless proliferation of crappy advertising that is the root cause of consumer disenchantment and desire to block ads.

At the end of the day, it's about consumer engagement.  From the Golden Age of Television to the current age of targeted, programmatic digital advertising, it has always been about engagement.  And right now, engagement in the mobile realm is not great.   At my company Grapeshot, our motto for our mission is to "make advertising welcome to consumers."  That's what every team member strives for as they roll out of bed, and I believe that the entire mobile ecosystem needs to embrace that level of conviction.

We need to rededicate ourselves to creating more engaging and meaningful user experiences instead of relying on annoying ads that take up a person's entire smartphone screen, which leads the irritated consumer to inadvertently click through on the ad. I can't help but smirk when I see some publishers congratulating themselves for high click-through rates when they were actually mostly attributable to people not being able to get rid of the ads.

These are ads that reputable publishers would never take on desktop so it doesn't make sense that they are so willing to pollute the mobile experience with them.

Beyond elevating the quality of the creative unit--native ads are one viable solution--, mobile practitioners also need to move away from an overreliance on click-through-rates (CTRs) as the primary key performance indicator for mobile ad campaigns.   Simply put, CTRs are a poor indicator of true ad engagement, especially when it comes to branding campaigns.

The recent adoption of location technology in mobile has the potential to be a truly game-changing development.  By combining keyword technology, which has become a linchpin of display advertising targeting, with location methods, we now have the ability to truly engage with consumers in the mobile realm.  True engagement means sizing up consumer need and affinity in a precise context that is informed by geography, behavior and even the weather report.   One of the primary culprits that has led to crappy mobile advertising is the serving of irrelevant, untimely messages.

In summary, display advertising has become a reasonably sophisticated medium whereby brands can leverage a range of leading edge data and analytical and targeting tools to serve consumers the perfect impression.   We have a similar opportunity to do that in mobile.