May 09, 2017

by Nigel Hollis

Digital media spend is now taking over half the money spent on advertising in a number of countries thanks to mobile. There is no doubt that mobile is going to feature prominently in any brand’s media mix for years to come, but that does not mean that mobile advertising can continue to serve up the same intrusive ad formats that it does now.

Mobile ad spend is growing because that is where the eyeballs are and will continue to be. Kantar Millward Brown’s AdReaction: Gen, X, Y, Z finds that three out of four 16 - 19 year olds spend over an hour a day using a mobile device but only one in two claim to watch TV for an hour or more. It seems highly likely that as this cohort age their dependence on mobile devices will continue and may even grow as our dependency on smartphones deepens.

However, as I have noted elsewhere, this generation is also the most ad averse, perhaps because most of their exposure comes on digital devices. They are most negative toward mobile display ads and mobile and desktop video ads. They are willing to engage with ad formats that deliver a value exchange like native ads and lenses or filters but want control and the ability to skip ads otherwise. Overall they are most likely to claim to skip ads when they can and to have loaded an ad blocker.

It is not hard to envision this generation growing up loathing the ad industry and the brands that fund the most intrusive ad formats. After all, if someone continually shouted in your face when you were trying to work or watch videos how would you feel? The goals of organizations like The Coalition for Better Ads are laudable, but like all work by committee, there is a danger that their work takes longer than ideal, and that the industry waits for their work to finish, rather than taking immediate action. Given there is already a wealth of global, country-level information available about ad receptivity, my advice would be for advertisers and their agencies to start implementing what makes common sense now.

The fundamental problem with mobile advertising today is that the value exchange between advertiser and device user has been broken. People use mobile devices for different tasks: entertainment, productivity and connectivity. But advertising does not necessarily fit with the user’s mindset. Ads are all pervasive, they jump content and platform irrespective of what task the user is engaged with.  And for some extraordinary reason that continues to escape me, the majority of people are not entertained or amused by ads that interrupt what they are trying to do all the time.

Perhaps it is time the ad industry – advertisers and publishers alike – took a step back and tried to figure out a better way. People will spend time and attend to content that is rewarding to them, content that entertains, offers something informative or useful and is available when and where they want. Call it native ads, sponsored content, curated content or whatever, but the ad industry needs to stop annoying the very people it is trying to influence.

 

 

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