by Per Holmkvist, Founder of mobile agency Mobiento and mobile ad network Adiento

Mobile marketing is growing up, and as a consequence advertisers are shifting their focus from Call-to-Action to the Action itself. From “What a nice ad” to “I really like this conversion rate”. With the emergence of Rich Media ads, advertisers face another exciting opportunity to activate consumers. But where does it fit in?

Through the years various mobile Call-to-Actions have been offered by advertisers; “Send an SMS”, “Snap a QR code”, “Click this Mobile Ad” and so on. In general much of the advertiser and agency focus has been on getting their message out there (counting number of impressions), and to some extent the interaction rate (e g CTR). Very little focus has been on the actual results.

One reason could be that mobile was such a small part of a campaign. It was more of an alibi that the brand was doing something new and exciting. Of course, there were also limitations in measuring the end-to-end-flow from impression to
conversion. All this is now changing.

The Action behind the Call-to-Action

The branding effects from mobile ads, where the ad occupies a large part of the screen, cannot be neglected. In fact Google research shows that as many as 80-90% of visitors recalls noticing a mobile ad. However what makes mobile unique is the interaction power. In the end, what happens behind the Call-to-Action is what really matters to most advertisers. So there is an important decision to make for these advertisers; Where do we want the mobile action, the dialogue, to take place?
From the outset most mobile dialogue was messaging (sms/mms) based, and for simple interaction sms response is still a strong method with an unmatched reach. Some dialogue was voice based, with interactive voice response or call centers.

This legacy lives on with Click-to-Call, which allows consumers to click on a phone number to call and connect with the advertiser directly. It is now a key growth driver for Google’s search-based mobile advertising business. Most small and medium enterprises already have a phone number, so the cost is low to set up a campaign even for the local pizza store.
However, for top brands the real break-through in mobile marketing was when advertisers could apply their brand identity graphically in the mobile context. Mobile web and apps gave advertisers a reason to use mobile for more than an alibi. Still, during the first years of mobile advertising, many banners led to desktop web sites, which of course was and still is a cardinal sin. According to research from Compuware 34% of visitors move on to a competitor’s site after a bad mobile experience.

Mobile Rich Media Ads

Now, with many (84% according to digital think tank L2) top brands finally supporting mobile web sites and/or apps, another mobile opportunity arises. Rich media ads are, in the words of Mobilemarketer.com, “ads that often include interactive graphics, audio or video within an expandable ad or full-screen takeover. Unlike static or animated banner advertisements, rich media enables users to interact with the banner without leaving the page on which it appears.” The emergence of mobile rich media ads, and the fact that most publishers and phones now support these, gives mobile advertisers three viable options for mobile dialogue:

• Mobile Web. Clicking (touching) an ad leads the consumer to a mobile adapted web site, where the dialogue takes place. The user hurdle is low, and most phones support web browsing. In addition a mobile web site can appear in Search results and can be linked to from Social media. However, just because a brand already has a mobile web site, there might be reason to create a specific mobile campaign site, focused on achieving campaign objectives.

• Mobile App. Clicking an ad leads to an app store, where the customer is asked to download an app where the dialogue will take place. Downloading an app is a user hurdle. But if the dialogue is intended to take place over a longer time, with high frequency, an app is probably the right choice. This is also true if the dialogue requires complex functionality, as for example in gaming. Apps need to be developed for each technical platform and is the most costly way to reach a broad audience.

• Rich Media Ad. Here interaction takes place directly in the ad. This can be anything from playful touch games to expanding the ad to an actual landing page, all without leaving the publishers site. Publishers love this, which is one reason we will see it thrive. But it also has advantages for advertisers and consumers. The initial hurdle is low, so the advertiser can catch the consumer’s interest on the fly. For brands lacking mobile web or app, it’s a low cost way to tap into the force of mobile advertising. Even for brands that have an app or mobile web, a rich media ad can be a way of starting a campaign specific dialogue targeted on campaign goals. To the consumer, ads are an inevitable part of the web experience. With rich media ads that user experience is streamlined and improved compared to static ads. For example an ad can be expanded and minimized again, when the consumer wants to go back to browsing the publisher’s site.

The above three methods are sometimes stand-alone but are often integrated with each other. For example, we often see a thin but engaging rich media campaign dialogue to capture the consumer’s instant attention, which then leads to a deeper interaction on mobile web, a video, or app download. From Mobiento’s and Adiento’s experience, interaction rates inside the ads sometimes can be as high as 20-30%, while the clicks leading to deeper interaction are still industry average 1-2%. Below is an example campaign by leading Swedish movie chain SF Bio, on Sweden’s largest mobile news site m.aftonbladet.se.

Certainly rich media ads are here to stay; publishers, advertisers and even consumers have reason to like them. However for deeper and longer dialogues mobile websites and apps are still a necessity. The winner will be the advertiser who combines these three in the best way.

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