Despite the skyrocketing amount of time consumers are spending on smartphone and tablets – this year, mobile use finally surpassed desktop use in the U.S. – mobile advertising remains a largely overlooked, underutilized category, says Michael Lieberman, CEO of North American operations at Joule, a full-service mobile agency.
Instead of developing ads built for the medium, many brands continue to use banner ads and recycled, shortened TV spots -- techniques that not only don't translate well to mobile but fail to take advantage of the platform's central advantage: its immediacy. Mobile ads have the unique power to inform a consumer's actions and trigger purchases, not just on the screen but in the real-world.
Instead of repurposing TV ads or digital ads for mobile, he advises, think about what makes the platform so magical, and use it to your advantage.
1. Location information
One of the most valuable advantages of advertising on mobile is the platform provides information on consumers' past physical movements. Brands should incorporate this valuable asset into the creative process from the very beginning, recommends Lieberman. Say you are an electronics company trying to reach an audience on Black Friday. "You may want to know, did we see these people in a Best Buy over the past two or three weeks?" says Lieberman. "If we did, we can probably make the assumption that that consumer was doing product research rather than buying something." Location offers a window into a consumer's mindset and intent; Based on this information, it's possible to send a strategically timed and worded message.
This strategy also provides a window for brands to poach consumers from competitors. Mobile advertising "works great for geo-conquesting," says Christian De Gennaro, the VP of Channel Partnerships at Thinknear, a location based mobile ad network. If you're Ford Motor Company and you want to siphon away some of Toyota's potential new customers, you can directly target consumers who have visited a Toyota dealership in the last 60 days. "You analyze devices for X behavior in order to deliver them an ad for Y," says Gennaro.
2. Detailed device-based profiles
Location data also allows brands to target specific demographics. A mobile device's movement builds a detailed user profile. "It can be used as a leading indicator of behavior," explains Gennaro. "Say we're looking for fitness enthusiasts, and we have a whole bunch of location data...we can mine it for a 60-day period, and create a profile of particular devices." If in that time frame, a device has checked-in at the gym, a Lululemon store, and various fitness events, its owner likely fits the profile of a fitness enthusiast.
Alternatively, location itself creates useful parameters. For a local brew pub trying to immediately fill the afternoon's slow hours between two and five by advertising a happy hour, it's most beneficial to reach consumers' within walking distance who can arrive in a few minutes.
3. Personalized calls-to-action
One of the biggest mistakes Lieberman says brands continue to make is slapping ads that were created for other platforms – TV commercials or digital banner ads, being the two prime examples – onto mobile. The format doesn't translate: "No one wants to sit through a 30 second trailer" on their phone, and banner ads displayed on a smartphone screen can be laughably tiny.
This is double-loss, says Lieberman, because mobile is a uniquely powerful tool when brands play to its strengths. More than any other platform, it allows advertisers to reach out from the screen and touch consumers as they go about their daily-lives, influencing their actions not just online, but offline as well.
Doing this effectively requires brands to incorporate both location data as well as user's profiles to create effective, targeted call-to-action ads. This is the opposite model of a one-size-fits-all TV spot, because message should change based on a user's location, the time of day as well as their past location history. "If I know you are in midtown on a Tuesday at 3 p.m., I want to drive you to a store, and so I'll show you ad with directions to the nearest location," Lieberman says. "Whereas if I see that you on your couch on a Monday night, I'm going to send you to our website for product information and maybe an ecommerce purchase. The circumstances in which we see you are going to dictate the creative that we ultimately serve."
Related: Moving Beyond the Banner Ad