Mobile is the fastest-growing form of digital advertising, with good reason. Mobile devices literally put the world at your fingertips. Consumers in both developed and developing markets have embraced this wisdom, and are throwing down their flip phones.
Companies like Facebook ride this wave, and fund their growth with the world’s transition to mobile. In fact, mobile traffic now exceeds desktop traffic for the first time in the history of the internet with the rise of tablets in the last few years. More than three-fourths of Facebook’s $5.34 billion in yearly revenue comes directly from mobile advertising.
But big changes are coming to mobile ads. Here are a few trends I see coming down the road — all of which companies should embrace upfront rather than ignore.
No More Spray And Pray
Digital advertising has long held the promise to reach targeted groups of users, and it does — sort of. But believe it or not, most digital platforms, including mobile, still carry on the most annoying practice of traditional ads: they spray and pray.
In other words, they blanket users with irrelevant messaging and pop-ups at every page-turn and click.
This clutter quickly sours a user’s experience, especially in the stripped-down environment of mobile, where it’s more naked. This creates negative associations with a brand, which is the last thing any advertiser wants.
Target, Target, Target
What’s the solution? The good news is targeting consumers has gotten a lot easier, and will only get better. Continuous improvements in mobile technology and software — geolocation and the ability to link profiles across platforms and applications — make users’ experience of mobile advertising much less intrusive than in the past, which is a good thing.
Faster, better data and more crosslinking also make it easier to serve up ads that are ultimately more relevant to the consumer, and so enhance rather than degrade their mobile experience.
Native ads, which are contextualized to a user’s interests, are becoming the norm rather than the exception. More than two-thirds of brands, and two-thirds of companies, have gone native in their advertising.
Facebook and Google, as drivers of the world’s migration to mobile, are also constantly fine-tuning their ad-serving tools to make them more intuitive to the end-user. Why? Because they know that ensuring a seamless experience is the key to their revenue.
Making ads less intrusive doesn’t mean that they’re any less aggressive; they’re just more a part of a user’s intuitive experience of search and content exploration.
De-clutter or Die!
Now a word of caution. As the world embraces mobile, mobile users become more sophisticated. They may reject a platform based on unnecessary hindrances to their experience.
This negative perception must be avoided by advertisers at all costs. And while overall improvements in mobile technology create a virtuous cycle, it’s still up to advertisers to make sure they don’t oversell or blot out the benefits of their ads to consumers.
Ads must be perceived as adding value to a user’s experience, not clutter. If ads continue to clutter consumers’ experience, sophisticated ad-blockers will soon follow, and advertisers will pay the price.
This creates an arms race that could undo all that has been achieved by targeted advertising so far. Publishers could be forced to charge fees for content, if they aren’t able to achieve their targets for advertising revenue.
So advertisers beware — and be wise. The mobile wave is rising. Get out in front of it while you still can.