American Marketer


Optimizing mobile advertising on dimensions that really matter

October 13, 2014

Joline McGoldrick is director of research at Millward Brown Joline McGoldrick is director of research at Millward Brown


By Joline McGoldrick

With the maturity of mobile as an advertising platform in audience time, media spend and technical capabilities, it is incumbent on brands to refine their mobile campaign optimization criteria to keep pace with the evolving mobile ecosystem.

While behavioral data will always remain at the core of mobile optimization, the challenge in 2015 is to integrate additional parameters to continue to improve on showing the right audiences the right ads.

In our recent report, “Getting Mobile Right,” we identified the components of mobile advertising and usage that marketers should focus on as 2014 winds to a close.

Going into 2015, we suggest that marketers integrate the dimensions of device, companion screen and location into their behavioral optimization criteria.

Disaggregate mobile advertising into tablet and smartphone advertising and factor in the companion screen
Our research underscores that audience interaction with smartphones and tablets is distinct and therefore requires distinction in strategies towards them and in measurement of them.

The support for this splitting or recategorization of “mobile” into “smartphone” and “tablet” lies in differences in usage, interactions and mindsets.

Demographically, tablet usage is highest among more affluent and middle-aged audiences.

Among audiences who had used a tablet in the past day, 35-45-year-olds spent 157 minutes per day using their tablet, compared to the 114 minutes for those ages 25-34 or 119 minutes for consumers ages 16-24.

Younger audiences, by contrast, spent the most time on smartphones.

Among audiences that used a smartphone in the past day, 16-24-year-olds, on average, spent 200 minutes per day on smartphones, compared to 177 minutes for 25-34-year-olds and 153 minutes for 35-45-year-olds.

In “Getting Mobile Right,” we noted that attention is divided across several screens: TVs; laptops and PCs; tablets; and smartphone.

Nonetheless, too often optimization efforts ignore the audience’s divided attention and the other companionate screens vying for their focus. To effectively tap in to the audience’s attention and receptivity, mobile should optimize for companion screens.

Dialing right
Smartphone and tablet usage in conjunction with other screen consumption is drastically different.

While 55 percent of smartphone time is spent exclusively on that platform – independent of using other devices – 55 percent of tablet time is spent while simultaneously watching TV.

As such, tablets, as devices companionate to TV consumption, are put to their best use when providing supplemental entertainment and are additive to the television viewing experience.

In the extensive qualitative work that we have conducted on device usage, audiences have continually expressed their delight with tablet experiences that offered behind the scenes and supplemental footage that can be consumed during commercial breaks.

There is a huge opportunity for marketers to better integrate with this type of supplemental content in the tablet environment.

By contrast, audiences engage with their smartphones for smaller, more frequent viewing sessions. They engage in bite-sized content such as social media check-ins, weather and short communications including short emails or texts during multiscreen viewing.

Although the frequency of these activities is greater, leading to a higher aggregate time spent, the audiences have limited attention to the task at hand and are goal directed. Smartphone advertising should be optimized to allow for these quick interactions.

Optimize by location
Finally, location is essential, particularly in driving lower-funnel purchase activities.

“Getting Mobile Right” revealed that more than one-third of audiences (34 percent) shopped on their mobile phone in-store.

A plurality of mobile audiences (46%) used both mobile applications and mobile browser for mobile shopping.

Location-based advertising, when properly targeted, has the ability to enhance the in-store shopping experience and drive purchase.

The expansion of optimization and targeting to include elements of screen, companion device and location open the door for us to finally get mobile right and put the burgeoning ad spend to its best use.

By expanding our optimization and targeting to include these factors, marketers can not only boost efficacy but also more efficiently leverage the wide variety of platforms and tools available.

Joline McGoldrick is director of research at Millward Brown, Boston. Reach her at