The days of desktop dominance are over.
This sharp and concise statement, which came from a 2014 comScore report, sums up the modern ad environment perfectly.
The report found that smartphones and tablets accounted for a full 60% of time spent on digital media in the US, with apps driving a lot of this growth.
While that report came out two years ago, mobile has continued to grow to become a veritable behemoth of an industry, dominating the marketing strategy of businesses around the world.
BI Intelligence predicts that US mobile ad spend will reach around $42 billion in 2018. For a more traditional marketer, mobile advertising might seem like a risky bet compared to conventional options.
But if you look a little closer, it’s clear that mobile ads are indeed a powerful way to reach consumers – and arguably more effective than other choices when done correctly.
Know who you’re trying to reach
One of the most important steps in developing a mobile ad strategy is to define a target audience.
Mobile advertising is extremely flexible. It allows for sophisticated and granular targeting options that can narrow in on precisely the type of people who will convert at a higher rate, and bring you a better ROI without wasting ad spend on the wrong audience.
This means the difficultly is in determining who your ideal audience is.
Consider age, gender, geography, device type and users’ interests/habits. Once you’ve figured out that aspect, serving ads to them is a relatively painless process.
A good ad platform can provide extremely precise targeting based on classification tags collected through big data analysis.
No matter who your target audience is, you’ll almost certainly find them on their smartphone.
The Pew Research Center found that in 2015 nearly 70% of the US population owned a smartphone. While the data at that time showed smartphone usage was more popular among younger, more affluent and highly educated people, industry trends now point to the majority of the U.S. population switching from feature phones to smartphones.
Meet the ads
The next step for brands venturing into the world of mobile advertising – or those who want to take their ad campaigns to the next level – is to understand the different ad options that are out there.
Currently, in-app and web-based ads are the two most popular formats of mobile ads (more on this later, as these two formats are subdivided into different categories).
Text messaging (SMS) and Multimedia Messaging (MMS) are more “traditional” mobile ad formats that are still in use today. With MMS, advertisers can send messages with graphics, photos, AV and text. However, MMS is not universally supported by all operators, which can be limiting.
Looking at the overall trends, in-app ads are now extremely popular due to their ability to deliver a solid ROI – better than that of in-browser ads.
According to Medialets, in-app click-through rates averaged 0.56% globally, compared to only 0.23% for mobile web ads during the first half of this year.
Dive in deeper with in-app ads
It is important to remember that not all in-app ads are created equal – there are a few different formats that dictate how an ad is displayed within an app. Each has its own unique strengths. Here are three of the most commonly used formats:
- Native ads: As defined by the MMA Mobile Native Advertising Committee, native advertising is a form of paid media where the ad experience follows the natural form and function of the user experience. In other words, when done correctly, native ads will match the design and feel of the app experience in a non-obtrusive way.
- Interstitial ads: In this case, the name of the ad is trickier than the actual ad format. This type of ad fills up a large portion of the screen – typically the entire screen or half of the screen – and is displayed for a set amount of time before it disappears and the user is able to return to what they were previously doing.
- Offer walls: This option is particularly popular for mobile games because they can carry the game experience into an advertisement. In some cases, this will take the form of a page within an app that offers incentives for completing a task – typically it’s a simple activity like viewing an ad. In return, the user earns a prize (e.g., extra lives, upgrades) that will help them in the game they’re playing.
Again and again, the data shows that in-app mobile ads perform better than mobile web ads, most likely due to their flexible formats and ability to connect with users more intimately.
As smartphone usage continues to skyrocket, it’s expected that mobile ad spending will keep rising at a similar pace.
Josh Fenn is senior marketing manager of Baidu, Inc.’s Global Business Unit and a contributor to Search Engine Watch.