Why marketers need to engage rather than enrage to solve the mobile advertising divide

Keeping a lid on problems doesn’t solve them — as the publishers still losing almost £1 million to ad blocking can confirm. Over the years, the ad block fight has slipped from the number one spot of industry problems; with declining general levels of blocked impressions and increasing advertising investment creating a perception the issue is under control. But that isn’t necessarily true.

Mobile is not only set to be a key driver of 2019’s £14.7 billion digital ad spend total; it’s also experiencing greater levels of ad blocking. Studies have shown a creeping increase in usage, with blockers detected during 8% of UK mobile sessions, and 32% of global mobile users blocking ads, only just behind PCs and laptops (37%).

While it may be moving at a relatively slow pace, mobile blocking has significant potential to escalate: hurting advertiser and publisher revenues. If marketers want their star format to keep performing, they must re-focus on ensuring ads engage, not enrage today’s consumers.

The creative divide

Tackling any issue begins with a better understanding of its key causes. At a wider level, it comes as no surprise that major frustrations for general blockers are over exposure and irrelevance (48% and 47%); annoyance with high numbers of generic ads dates back to the start of the ad block crisis.

But irritation linked to mobile offers deeper insight. Nearly two-fifths of users (37%) are driven to blocking ads if they take up too much screen space; followed by slow loading times (33%) and drained data (22%). Additional research spells out the top concern clearly: 78% of consumers dislike ads not made for their device.

While marketers appreciate mobile’s vast advertising strength, awareness of the need for ads to work with this unique environment isn’t always guaranteed. To avoid mismatches between creative and mobile, marketers must choose formats carefully. Shrinking down ads built for TV or desktop isn’t likely to fuel success — marketers need to harness creative that aligns with consumer activity and requirements to provide a positive mobile experience.

Engaging by design

Given the low tolerance for ads that obscure screens, non-intrusive units should be a high priority. Of course, balance will be vital: though avoiding aggravation is crucial, ads must still be intriguing enough to capture audience interest.

Mobile-friendly units can deliver high yet non-invasive impact, for example, formats intended to be subtly sticky — remaining in view as users scroll and only expanding once they decide to engage or reach the end of the page — puts consumers in control, as well as maximising the chances of ads gaining positive attention. Plus, disruption can be restricted even further by leveraging outstream and in-feed ads designed to integrate with mobile content.

It’s also essential to consider the way consumers use their devices. Because most mobile technology is touch screen, there is a high risk of accidental clicks and subsequent consumer exasperation. As a result, marketers focused on minimising interruption must adopt formats with more sophisticated user-activation, such as loading ads after a definite swipe. Similarly, the common user tendency to hold smartphones upright can make for sub-optimal viewing when watching horizontal videos, making it a wiser move to shoot content vertically.

Telling inspiring stories

Looking beyond mobile specifications, there are also opportunities for marketers to make ads irresistibly compelling by turning their campaigns into stories. By tapping into consumer appetite for inspiring narratives, marketers can connect with individuals on a personal level, forging meaningful relationships that reduce blocking inclination to pave the way for continuous future engagement. That’s not to mention the fact sequential storytelling has a proven beneficial business impact: significantly boosting site visits and subscriptions.

To optimise engagement, marketers must ensure consumers have an active involvement in each story. Options for achieving this are many and varied: they might take a leaf out of the Netflix Bandersnatch book and create flexible stories where consumers choose their own ending. Alternatively, they can use the inherently interactive nature of mobile to involve consumers in the narrative; leveraging in-built capabilities to enable direct participation.

For instance, that may include allowing consumers to take a selfie and instantly overlaying their image in display ads, or adding an extra dimension to product evolution stories with 360-degree videos showing where items come from and how they are made. Dialling the high-tech element up even higher, marketers can follow in the footsteps of Virgin Holidays’ Wish You Were Here campaign and use augmented reality to boost customer engagement.

The overall lull in ad blocking growth is no reason for digital advertising complacency. As climbing mobile usage demonstrates, no marketer can afford to take their foot off the creativity pedal if they want to drive continuous engagement, and returns. As well as taking steps to limit the negative impact of intrusive ads, marketers must consistently work on refining and enhancing the mobile experience. Only with formats that seamlessly fit their surroundings and captivating stories can marketers realise the full potential of mobile.

Interested in hearing leading global brands discuss subjects like this in person?

Find out more about Digital Marketing World Forum (#DMWF) Europe, London, North America, and Singapore.  

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