Responsive advertising: The breakthrough the industry has been waiting for

Cameron Hulett, EMEA Executive Director, Undertone

Multi-screen content has exploded, with more than 30 million smartphones and nearly 10 million tablets in the UK generating a third of the total online traffic. However, even with statistics like these, brands and publishers are still struggling to make digital ads cost-efficient across the plethora of screens, formats and sites.

According to eMarketer, mobile advertising spend in the UK is expected to reach almost £1bn this year. While that is up by 90 per cent from £526m last year, it is still a mere drop in the ocean in comparison to the expected total digital ad spend of £6.1bn.  Two thirds of the UK population now owns a smartphone and are therefore being exposed to mobile advertising, so it would be easy to assume that the mobile digital ad spend would have increased dramatically.

The question is: what’s holding back brands and publishers?

For many brand marketers, they are no longer inspired by the out-dated formats available in the industry. They are being attracted to rich media opportunities elsewhere, for example via video, where they can see the potential on tablets and the enhanced engagement that interactive canvases can bring. Against the wider trends towards rich media, simple mobile ads aren’t good enough. Brands are suffering basic banner ad fatigue, especially on small screens, which explains why the numbers around mobile advertising remain so low.

For publishers it’s a slightly different story. They have started to limit their mobile options.  It’s not been easy for them put forward a case to encourage more spend on mobile advertising. The Association of Online Publisher’s Census last year found that only 29 per cent of publishers generated more than six per cent of their revenues from mobile traffic. 72 per cent argued that the main barrier in their way was the fragmentation of mobile devices, whereas 56 per cent put it down to not having the in-house skills and resources to manage it.

Enter responsive design. From a publisher perspective, responsive design means publishers can build one website that changes according to the screen it is being viewed on. This means the layout, content and images show up differently per screen. For example, small screens will have “swipe to open” where larger screens will have “click to view”.

Already 10% of publishers have rebuilt their sites to do this, reaping the rewards of efficiency and flexibility. The problem is ads have not, until recently, been built on an adaptive design construct. This is the opportunity at hand.

Although single screen creative solutions remain effective and a staple part of the industry, the process of running cross-screen campaigns across multiple platforms is the future and responsive ads are the breakthrough that both publishers and brands have been looking for. It not only provides significant cost efficiencies, but also creates a rich and highly optimised mechanism through which to drive interaction and engagement across multiple screens.

Benefits aside, there are challenges to adopting responsive design. Running a cross-platform, multi-screen campaign is complicated, especially if multiple publishers are involved. Advertisers can be faced with layers of technical and creative complexity, and the need for separate creatives makes it less cost effective than it should be.  However all is not lost. By using technologies designed to simplify ad delivery on multiple screens, at the same time surpassing traditional restrictions around creativity, brands can reach multiple publishers with ease and can start to reap the benefits of responsive advertising.

With a responsive cross screen advertising format that works seamlessly across smartphone, tablet and desktop web environments, publishers and brands no longer have to fall behind in the consumer technology rat race. They can start to deliver engaging advertising straight into the palms of their consumer’s hands. Especially with formats that can accommodate photo galleries, Twitter or Instagram feeds, in addition to other social media links and click-to-call functionality.

Although the industry has recognised the need to engage with consumers through new channels and on new platforms, there is still room for improvement. Publishers are still selling fixed dimension ad units that don’t adapt to different screens and as long they continue to do so, they will struggle to monetise the new platforms they have heavily invested in. Responsive advertising needn’t be a daunting task.

It’s time for publishers and brands to embrace the new technologies that enable cross channel campaigns to be delivered from a single creative unit. After all, they allow publishers and brands to deliver a unified message across multiple devices, to consistently track traffic across platforms and ultimately reduce the time and cost associated with marketing a multi-screen campaign.

More importantly, it enables responsive advertising to be delivered to consumers on the devices they know and love and in a modern and contemporary way. The time for responsive advertising is now. Embrace it.

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