There’s no doubt that the mobile ad industry still has room to develop and innovate. But Vikas Gulati, managing director of Opera Mediaworks Asia, believes the most exciting thing happening in mobile advertising is the influx of consumer signals coming from users’ devices.
“I think the future of mobile advertising lies in personalisation," he said. "There will be no spamming ads. The right ad will be served to the right person. And that journey has started over the last few years. In 2016, as data points are patched together, we’ll be getting closer and closer.”
However, even before this level of personalisation is achieved, Gulati thinks that marketers should see user experience as a priority in mobile advertising. From his experience working with clients in Asia-Pacific, he has observed that many marketers are “rushing their mobile campaigns” in a bid to get their marketing activities live with each new campaign.
“If mobile is just an afterthought, then so is user experience," he said. "And money is going the down the drain. For example, mobile ads that are text-heavy or contain videos that load slowly may lead to a poor experience for the user who will quickly dismiss the ad, even if they manage to see it.
Gulati holds a strong view that mobile should be the “centre of gravity” in the campaign-planning process. The benefits could be two-fold.
“Brands need to start thinking about the mobile screen from the onset, firstly because that’s where consumers are spending their time,” said Gulati. “Secondly, mobile marketing and design teams need to be able to plan for mobile at stage one to ensure it’s effective. It’s more difficult to do that when mobile comes at the end of that process.”
According to Jason Collar, senior director of creative services at Opera Mediaworks, clients expect nothing less than “magic” from their mobile advertising agencies.
“We don’t mind being magicians," Collar said. "We just need a little time." As a lead creative in the mobile ad design team, Collar believes that a client’s KPIs and objectives often inform the type of mobile ad used in a campaign.
“We have a slew of different creative assets and approaches that help them achieve their goal,” Collar added.
But what if the client’s KPIs and objectives are wrong? What if their priorities aren’t in the right place?
In that case, Gulati said that the agency works to change clients’ minds, although not in the sense of a Jedi mind-trick. “If a client is in the game for the long run, they need to ask themselves what exactly they are trying to do,” said Gulati. “Maybe they really need to look beyond clicks.”
To that, Collar added that the agency’s role is to show clients a “different view of things backed up by examples and research”. This is all the more important as the lines between brand performance KPIs such as awareness and impressions, and hard KPIs, like conversions and sales, have blurred.
In terms of mobile ad design trends, Gulati and Collar said the following will continue to be important in 2016:
- Mobile ads integrated with social media and that utilise HTML5, allowing for rich and interactive media
- Mobile ads combined with native advertising as more app developers, UX designers and publishers move towards native advertising.
- More video-based mobile ads. Gulati said marketers love the idea of telling stories from the big screen to mobile and personal devices.
- Mobile ads that get the user’s attention by tapping into the native features of the user’s smartphone such as selfie camera, haptic functions and gyroscope.
- Better mobile ad infrastructure and technology that improves the user experience. For example, in many Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam, where internet speeds are slower, video and other rich media may take a long time to load. With better mobile ad technology this can be improved.
- Refresh your mobile advertising creative regularly. Monitor the campaign’s performance in real-time and adjust accordingly. In other words, don’t just use one version of a mobile ad. Think of many different ideas and test them out.
- Look at what’s working in different markets across the world to stay ahead of the curve and to learn. Keep brainstorming to come up with new ideas and approaches.