How to make mobile ads that don’t suck…

The very first ad on television was this 10 second spot for Bulova. It’s little more than a “static” graphic and a 2 second voiceover… with 8 seconds of dead air. As bad as this ad is, it was the very first. Oftentimes, the first of anything isn’t very good; the very first powered flight was 3 seconds. Even the Constitution was flawed at first: it’s had 27 Amendments. Why the Bulova ad looks and sounds like this is simple: the most effective form of advertising at the time was radio. This is little more than a radio spot with an image crudely attached to it. It aired in 1941. Nearly 75 years later we find ourselves making the same mistakes, only this time with mobile advertising.You cannot approach mobile advertising the way you approach display advertising. It is not the same. It is not even close. The only thing they have in common is that they are both connected to the internet.The most common form of mobile advertising is the static 320×50 static JPG. Why? Why on earth are we building shitty JPEGs? Why is everyone ignoring the fact that the mobile devices we all carry around in our pockets are purpose-built for consumption of media? A recent study shows that we check our devices on average 100 times a day, which once every 10 minutes if you happen to sleep only 6 hours a night. The reason these formats are the most common is because they are the easiest – that’s it. We’re being lazy. They are not the most effective, they are not the most engaging, but most condemning of all is that the measurement of these types of units is the worst kind of measurement out there.With these static JPEGs, all anyone can tell you is how many ads were served (Impressions), and how many people clicked on them (Clicks). If you divide those two numbers by each other, you get Click Through Rate (CTR). FUCK CTR; it’s useless when you are talking about conversion. Study after study  after study suggests the same thing. If you are going to make mobile ads that don’t suck, you will need to do a few very important things:

Consider the device you are placing your ads on. Doing this ensures you are not making the same mistakes Bulova did in 1941. Consider the device and how users are actually using it. Nobody taps on ads to go to landing pages on mobile devices. You don’t do it; why on earth would you expect a consumer just like you to do it? What you should be doing instead is create engagement opportunities on mobile. When you pick up your phone, open an app or the mobile web, and an ad does catch your glance, remember the feeling you have when you see it. Everyone feels that way. Instead of asking a user to “Tap to Learn More,” ask them to “Swipe to get a personalized offer” or “Swipe to see a web exclusive trailer” or “Pinch to expand” or “Pinch to reveal the all new 20XX car”. Which leads me to my next point.

Be genuine, give users something for their interaction. If you are an entertainment marketer that makes TV shows or movies, trade the user for content. If you advertise cars, ask the user to explore why your car is better than the car they drive now.  If you want to sell something, give them a place to buy it nearby, or how many are in stock, or a coupon. Do these things and measure your ads by conversion rate, or by interaction rate. See what a better story that gives you for your Effie case study and what it will do for your client retention. Be careful though: as people, our bullshit detectors are pretty dialed-in thanks to evolution. If we swipe, pinch or tap and your ad does not immediately give us what was promised but sends us to some landing page, we’re closing it and telling all our friends what a jerk you are for hiding the saber-toothed tiger in the cave you told us fire was in.

Lastly do not ask them to do anything foreign. Asking a user to “click” on a mobile device instantly turns that cleverly crafted message of yours into the following sentiment: “We don’t know you and don’t care about you, so feel free to ignore us.” There is a vernacular to the way we all use our devices, and clicking is not a part of it.

Do these three things, abandon CTR, and you will have built an experience worthy of being on the internet in our pocket. Start here and you can build something great. You won’t be the first to do it, but your advertising will better for thinking about your consumers and how they interact with content, before creating the ad.