American Marketer


Surviving the adolescence of mobile advertising

January 31, 2013


By David Scatterday

Mobile advertising is at an adolescent stage in its development. Mature enough for its effectiveness to be incontrovertible, yet young enough that big practical kinks remain.

Particularly as a direct response channel, mobile fundamentally moves consumers closer than ever before to the end of the purchase funnel.

Users are on the street, in the shop, hungry for lunch – using their mobile devices to make direct and imminent purchase decisions. And their attention is focused – much more so than in a desktop setting.

Performance data backs that up. According to eMarketer, mobile click-through rates were eight times higher than desktop display norms in 2012, while ad awareness levels for mobile display ads were nearly five times that of their desktop counterparts.

The hurdles, however, are significant.

Analytics are a challenge, given the absence of third-party cookies, audience targeting is still miles behind desktop, and measuring reach is tricky – with de-duping next to impossible.

But there are workarounds that advertisers can apply now to help bridge these gaps until mobile inevitably reaches its full potential. In other words, ways to target and measure that are adapted to the unique nature of mobile.

Here are some examples.

Target by domain: Web versus app

Different user behavior drives mobile Web site versus mobile application use, and advertisers should consider these differences in ad planning.

Apps, while more expensive than Web site ads, provide a stage for users to come back to again and again and a persistent format users cannot scroll past.

Web site ads, on the other hand, make more sense and cost less when you want to reach a visitor for a one-off immediate need.

Engage by device: handset versus tablet

We also know that consumers use different device form factors for different purposes.

Handsets are the device of choice for utilitarian on-the-go activities such as price comparisons, location-based searches or time-killing games.

Tablets are more likely to be used for ecommerce or considered browsing that is less local in nature.

Reach via the buy: publisher versus network

Advertisers can also mitigate the challenge of assessing uniques by taking a strategic approach to network versus publishers buys.

If you can tolerate a bit of blind buying to achieve as much reach as possible, purchasing a broad demographic based on network or carrier data may be ideal for your media plan.

When your message or audience is narrower or your brand more sensitive, publisher-specific buys is the way to go.

MOBILE IS a long way from offering the granular targeting and measurement that we are accustomed to on larger screens. But advertisers cannot afford to sit on their hands.

By using what tools are available and thinking intuitively about mobile behavior, advertisers can begin to integrate mobile more formally into their media plans and budgets. It is an imperfect marketing medium, but it is still a wise investment.

David Scatterday is manager of product marketing for mobile at DG MediaMind, New York. Reach him at