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4 Mistakes Your Mobile-Ad Strategy Needs to Avoid Think desktop ads can be smoothly moved onto mobile? Sorry, that's just not the case.

By Ari Brandt Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


A few years back, when mobile advertising debuted, advertisers eagerly embraced it, because they could see how quickly media consumption was shifting, especially among younger consumers. Unfortunately, that embrace occurred without a lot of forethought or strategy as to how this new medium would differ from earlier media channels.

Related: 3 Ways to Create Mobile Ads That Attract, Not Annoy, Customers

The result was that advertisers churned out automated and poorly designed mobile ads that were -- and still are -- disruptive, distracting and lacking in regard for the user experience. Today, problems with mobile advertising abound. And ad viewability and ad blocking have barely even scratched the surface when it comes to addressing these problems.

The heart of the issue is consumers' disdain for ads (though not the brands they promote), and that disdain is especially problematic for mobile. At the same time, mobile has become the first advertising medium that lives with your consumer, and is rarely more than an arm's length away. And because of that close connection, when brands disrupt, consumers take things personally.

That's too bad, because the advertising industry now has at its fingertips its biggest opportunity in decades. So it's become more important than ever that companies take a moment to truly understand this powerful medium and develop a "mobile-first" advertising plan. Along the way, you should take care to avoid the following four mistakes:

1. Desktop ads aren't for mobile, period.

The first and biggest misstep brands and advertisers continue to make on mobile is to take desktop ads and force-fit them into mobile. Consumers have high standards for their experience on mobile, and ineffective desktop formats such as banners, interstitials and auto-play pre-roll ads aren't measuring up.

Rather, these formats have fallen behind the pace of technological change and user expectations, and are the reason consumers are scrambling for ad blocking. Brands have to look toward mobile-first ad formats now being developed to leverage a mobile device's unique user experience and data. In order for ads to be appreciated on mobile devices, their creators need to stop interrupting what people are interested in, and learn how to complement those interests instead.

2. Mobile web is not a viable mobile strategy.

Currently, a disproportionate proportion of mobile ad budgets go to (in-browser) mobile web, and most brands probably aren't even aware of the problem. According to the latest report from Flurry, 90 percent of the time consumers spend on mobile is in-app, not in a browser; so, why would brands allocate so much of their budget to mobile web?

Ponder that data point, then layer in the fact that Apple is going to start making it simple to block mobile web ads. Clearly, brands are running out of reasons to throw money at a mobile web strategy. In contrast, apps offer marketers an engaged and scalable environment where they can make emotional connections on an incredibly intimate device.

Within an app, too, advertisers can gain an understanding of a user's passion points, intent and emotional state. The ability to create an engaging, native experience that aligns and responds to a consumer's personal journey is a priceless advantage for all brand marketers. They just have to appreciate that.

Related: 3 Things to Consider When Building a Mobile Advertising Campaign

3. Just because it's mobile, don't assume it's viewable.

Some ad creators intuitively think viewability is only a desktop issue, either because the viewability discussion has recently centered on the desktop or because brands have been misled into thinking their mobile ads are viewable.

After all, the standards for mobile viewability still aren't formalized. But whatever your notions are about mobile viewability, don't take them at face value. The unfortunate truth is that viewability is a major issue on mobile, too. In fact, according to the most recent Moat report, only 37 percent of mobile ads are in view and only 28 percent are fully on screen for more than one second.

The major reason behind these abysmal statistics can be attributed to mobile web and open real-time bidding (RTB) programmatic inventory, but it's a problem in-app as well. Until the ad industry comes to a consensus on viewability standards, which the Media Rating Council predicts will occur by the end of 2015, it's up to you as a brand or agency to educate yourself on why an ad would or wouldn't be considered viewable in different formats.

Additionally, you'll want to investigate partnerships with vendors such as Moat and IAS, which are tracking mobile viewability to ensure that your mobile ad campaign can be seen.

4. Look beyond open RTB for mobile programmatic.

Just as there are benefits that desktop channels offer, there are also benefits to programmatic channels on mobile; but there are just as many challenges, if not more.

Fraud, transparency, inventory quality and availability of mobile-first ad units top the list. For that reason, private marketplaces (PMPs) are on the rise. Within a private marketplace, you can have much more control and awareness of viewability, and access to more premium, mobile-first ad units, all within a brand-safe environment.

The programmatic debate is hot right now, and the buying itself is not going away. Since mobile programmatic is on the rise, make sure you're getting your money's worth.

In the end, mobile represents an unprecedented opportunity for brands to reach consumers in an additive way. However, it's a complicated medium where users are much less tolerant of bad advertising experiences. Therefore, brands have to tread carefully and strategically in order to take advantage of all that mobile has to offer.

The first step is to avoid the common mistakes listed above. The second is to align with partners that can help your brand add to a user's mobile experience, not interrupt it.

Related: What You Need To Know About Facebook Mobile Ads

Ari Brandt

CEO and Co-Founder, MediaBrix

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