Our 2014 Mobile Grievances

by | Dec 23, 2014

The holiday season is among us, and today we celebrate Festivus.

We’ve already made a donation to The Human Fund in your honor, and we’ll be holding the Feats of Strength later tonight (we’re looking at you).

The tradition of Festivus, however, begins with the Airing of Grievances. We’ve got a lot of issues with this industry… so now you’re gonna hear about ’em!

Grievance #1

Ignoring the Differences Between Display and Mobile Advertising

While you can technically browse websites on both desktop computers and mobile devices, the capabilities between the two are night and day – especially when it comes to serving ads. For example, mobile can do things that a traditional computer can’t. There are also things mobile devices can’t do like use “cookies” in display advertising (we have workarounds for that).

Grievance #2


Mobile Ads Must Respond to a Variety of Screen Sizes

There are literally thousands of combinations of screen sizes for phones and tablets across the world, thus there is room for errors for how an ad looks if it is not built properly or use technology that can deliver it to a variety of environments. This is not the case for display advertising since static images can simply be scaled down (even if legibility becomes impossible).

Grievance #3

The “One Size Fits All” Approach to Rich-Media

Rich media units aren’t “one size fits all” either; there are thousands of combinations of operating systems (OS), device versions, brands of devices, phone vs. tablets, screen sizes, and more that determine whether the function of the ad (video, add to calendar, interactive units, etc.) will run properly. In order for consumers to engage with your ads, the rich-media must be tested to take all of these variables into account.

Grievance #4


Failing to Define CPI Metrics BEFORE a Campaign Begins

Brands that run CPI (cost per install) campaigns often fail to understand the full breadth of tracking performance and how it works.

This can cause a lot of back and forth in regards to launching a campaign, how an install is tracked, understanding the ROI for each install, and ultimately how the return on ad spend (ROAS) actually works toward a goal. This is completely isolated and unique to mobile, so not much of the understanding from display advertising translates over.

Grievance #5

Insisting on “Premium-Only” Inventory

Brands tend to think a whitelist of premium mobile inventory is the sure-fire way to get performance and brand uplift for their campaigns because this is usually the case in display advertising. However, what brands fail to grasp is that there are not as much available unique impressions on mobile as compared to display impressions (yet). Also, often times having a premium only white list is actually detrimental towards performance. Instead, a more diversified group of sites and apps help generate the best performance and allow for mid-campaigns updates to take place.

Grievance #6


The Refusal of Transparency

The biggest reason why brands have been slow to spend money in mobile is the overall lack of transparency in the space.

Many of the programmatic platforms and media agencies with trading desks are now being asked by clients to be more transparent by providing outlines of overall spend, fees and where ads are actually running.

Mobile ad networks and exchanges are feeling the heat as well.

Currently, most only share high-level campaign data, such as the number of apps, app category, impression count and number of clicks.

For a brand or its trusted agency partner, this information does not mean much. It is ultimately up to the advertiser to demand a fully disclosed model to gain further insight into the consumers engaging with its ads, and whether or not it is truly maximizing its investment.

Grievance #7

Lazy or Incompetent Targeting Options

Mobile ad tech firms eagerly promote their capabilities, yet no one is really educating brands and agencies on the importance of layering all available data together to build consumer profiles and improve targeting. Most conversations this past year have been centered on location-based targeting. However, they fail to account for an important fact: just because a consumer is 0.2 miles away from a Best Buy, it does not mean he or she is looking to buy a new television. While location data is valuable, there are still questions surrounding its validity. The industry, overall, needs to embrace additional targeting options that go beyond standard geographic, demographic, device, operating system (OS) and wireless carrier. These options include purchase intent, weather, time, and brand CRM data. By combining all of the available data, advertisers will be in a position to deliver relevant and personalized content to the right audience.

A few more for good measure…


Grievance #8: Creative and Scale

Creative opportunities in mobile, such as the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s “Rising Stars” ad formats, face a lack of overall awareness and acceptance. To date, as an industry, we have essentially been forced to try and create innovative and engaging experiences contained within a standard 320X50 mobile banner ad. Most of the blame has been geared towards publishers, so agencies, brands and others have been working closely with them to drive innovation and build premium mobile advertising products. Another area of focus with many publishers has been the prevalence of broken or outdated software development kits (SDKs). Because of this SDK issue, many of the mobile rich media ads currently being built either fail to render properly, or only run on a limited number of mobile sites or applications. There is still a tremendous opportunity in mobile advertising creative to deliver high-quality and engaging experiences at scale. This will ultimately deliver value to the consumer and produce key brand ROI metrics, including awareness, perception and recall.

Grievance #9: Viewability

Google announced late last year that it would now sell display ads, including mobile, based solely on viewability. This means that advertisers will only need to pay for ads that are seen by actual human beings. Some industry reports have pegged mobile viewability rates to be as low as 50 percent due to factors such as stacked images, load time, 1×1 pixel fraud, bots and improperly executed tags. The Media Ratings Council (MRC) and the Alliance of Audited Media (AAM) are two organizations tackling the issue of viewability in mobile. To fix this problem, advertisers must focus on buying premium inventory, and begin to shift away from standard impressions and toward viewable impressions.

Grievance #10: Fraud

The word “fraud” immediately inspires apprehension in the mobile space, so we need to band together as a community and adopt methods to mitigate the problem. The industry has started to confront the issue of fraud with organizations such as the IAB setting standards to define and regulate for it. As marketers continue to shift investment from desktop to mobile, and eventually programmatic, more sophisticated fraud techniques will continue to follow. To prevent inefficient mobile ad spending, brands and agencies need to demand transparency and identify mobile-specific solutions that immediately detect and block malicious traffic before ads are actually served.