Years ago, during mobile’s infancy, marketers started off sprinting, touting the benefits of this new ultra-targeted and personalised medium, and its ability to reach consumers on the go. With a wealth of new technologies at our disposal—programmatic, geo-location targeting, and cross-channel campaigns—we led the conversations on what could, and should be done on mobile.
Then we hit a roadblock: setting the standards for this brand new medium. Calls for greater transparency, attribution, and measurement are not new and have been the most commonly discussed topics in the industry.
Yet after a number of years, we are perhaps even more divided on the topic than we were before. Agencies and publishers alike have sought to remedy the issue by creating and adopting various sets of rules, ones that are often aligned to their own business goals. This has created a convoluted industry ecosystem where the rules are bent to benefit its users.
If the recent Google and YouTube situation teaches us anything, it is that we can no longer procrastinate. Brands, and even consumers themselves, are losing patience. The onus is now on mobile marketers to develop best practices and adhere to them.
The time for self-contained standards is over
Many agencies and advertisers today keep to an internal set of guidelines when it comes to mobile marketing. However, such guidelines tend to reinforce what is already being practised within the organisation, or skewed to benefit the bottom line. While they do provide some structure for business partners to measure against, should these internal guidelines be the way forward for the industry? Unlikely.
Issues such as viewability remain a touchy subject that few people are willing to take a stance on. The differences in views have spawned conflicting sets of rules that are separate from industry standards. We are seeing some agencies define ad viewability as 100 percent in-view, while for videos, at least 50 percent must be watched with sound on, without autoplay.
In contrast, publishers may charge for ads with 50 percent viewability at one to two seconds watched. The stark difference in playbooks means that marketers are subject to an ever-changing environment, dependent on whom they choose to engage with.
Let’s face it, while an internal set of guidelines is good practice, these rulesets should instead function both as a KPI and serve as a form of quality assurance to customers. An industry standard must be fair to all parties involved, while pushing the agenda for what will be good practice in mobile.
Changing the way we measure
While accountability will remain a topline topic for setting standards, marketers should bear in mind that the metrics used to measure mobile success in the past might not necessarily paint a full picture in today’s complex ecosystem.
For example, according to our recent SMoX study, we found that 80 percent of marketers continued to use click through rates (CTR) as the main diagnosis point for their mobile campaigns. However, in a separate study we conducted with Allstate, the US’ largest publicly-held lines insurer, CTR accounted for just 0.2 percent of sales conversions.
Currently, the diverse sets of rules in practice have created walled gardens that hamper industry growth, as they prevent marketers from gaining a holistic and, therefore, accurate picture of the various influences that have led to conversion or sales. To pave the way for more agile marketing and resolve some of these challenges in measurement faced today, our industry needs to work towards improving transparency and verification of data, standardising terms and metrics, and making advertising data linkable.
Adopting an integrated data approach, such as multi-touch attribution, has never been more important. By consolidating data across different platforms, sites and locations, and combining it with consumer data, marketers will be able distinguish how each component is performing in relation to the whole, resulting in a universal view of the campaign.
Setting the rules: Challenging, but necessary
A robust set of industry guidelines should encompass measurement and attribution, viewability and transparency, on top of best practices for mobile ads such as display and video ad formats. Guidelines should also be actively updated to stay relevant in today’s rapidly expanding adtech ecosystem, with provisions made to address emerging technologies such as voice search.
Creating such a playbook, especially one that is inclusive, collaborative, and fair to all parties, may not be easy—brands, media agencies, media owners, and advertisers all bring their own agenda into the equation. Finding common ground for a more open web has to be a key priority for the industry moving forward, and this is something we’re working on with our recent Marketing Attribution Think Tank initiative, because contrary to popular belief, standardised guidelines do not need to come at the expense of one or more parties. In fact, raising the bar for mobile marketing will improve the performance of ads and ultimately see a larger share of the marketing budget.
For years, marketers have called for mobile to have better accountability, and this time, there will be no delaying a resolution. As we push forward into a new frontier for mobile, we can expect to see the industry come together to develop the first steps of a universally accepted standard, if not a full set of guidelines.
Perhaps then, we can start talking about how mobile will deal with its new-found adulthood.
|Rohit Dadwal is managing director of the APAC Mobile Marketing Association.|