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Mobile Marketing

The Importance of Context in Mobile Advertising

Eddie de Guia  //  June 30, 2016  //  5 min read

Advertising has always been about reaching the right person at the right time, with the right message. Even if we were to hark back to the golden age of Madison Avenue in the 1960s, you’d probably hear the same mantra being repeated by advertising executives.

On this most basic level, the goal of mobile advertising is precisely that. However, context in particular matters to mobile advertisers because of the unique nature of the platform and, most importantly, the personal experience of using a mobile device.

It is hugely important that mobile advertisers pay attention to context. By failing to adapt, mobile advertisers can quickly find themselves burning through budgets and annoying users with disruptive and ineffective ad offerings. And publishers who serve those sorts of adverts will find users respecting their product or service less—damaging themselves in the long run.

If you do adapt to the personal context mobile offers, then mobile advertising can be a big driver of success for any company, product, or service—transforming your advertising from annoying head space invader to handy problem solver.

Are you invading your customers’ personal space?

Before you can begin to benefit from presenting your adverts in a relevant context on mobile, it’s important to understand why the platform differs from many others, including comparable digital formats.

The biggest reason mobile devices offer a unique, and potentially challenging, context for advertisers is the personal nature of the device. In comparison to disposable, physical advertising formats (like a newspaper or the shared experience of watching adverts on television), mobile devices feel intimate to individual users.

We carry our mobile devices with us everywhere, and it is one of the most personal communication channels between brand and customer. Containing personal contacts, used to access curated social networks with friends and family, and accessed in the palm of a person’s hand, a smartphone isn’t simply a device; it’s a part of a person’s identity.

Also, with the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) reporting that the average consumer checks their phone up to 150 times a day, it’s clear the personal nature of mobile is reinforced significantly by regular usage.

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With this knowledge, advertisers should tread as carefully in a mobile device as they would if they were invited into a consumer’s house. Unfortunately, advertisers who fail to adapt to the unique context of mobile don’t act respectfully. Instead, they kick the metaphorical door in, drag their dirty shoes through the house, and empty the fridge without bothering to say hello.

By filling up screen space with page blocking interstitials, draining battery life with heavy file formats, and even forcing the user to pay for the by eating up to 79% of a customers’ monthly data package, context free mobile advertising like this does two things that damages advertisers.

First, it annoys users who might otherwise tolerate adverts. As a recent report for eMarketer claimed, mobile advertising is viewed by 55% of users in the UK as annoying—despite the fact that a previous survey had found 67% of British users tolerating ads in free mobile apps.

And with a report from Interruptions.net revealing that user retention increases when users see fewer ads, or they see “congruent ads” that fit their interests when online, annoyance can have a genuine negative impact on your business.

The most obvious way this manifests itself, and the second reason why context free advertising is bad, is with the rise of mobile advertising blocking. Advertisers who annoy users with context free advertising to the point they choose to block don’t just diminish the effectiveness of an individual campaign: They potentially inflict billions of dollars of damage to the overall mobile market that relies on ad funding to exist.

Third and finally, the billions of dollars of damage caused by blocking of context free publishing harms publishers who serve those adverts. By serving irrelevant adverts or adverts that are inappropriate to its audience, such as adverts in children’s games, publishers are blamed by users who don’t understand the complicated mobile advertising technology that causes these failings.

And in the long run, this will deny them traffic, prevent them generating advertising revenues and, ultimately, threaten their businesses.

Contextual advertising is respectful advertising.

Fortunately, respecting the personal nature of the mobile device and advertising successfully are not contradictory goals. In fact, the technology that powers mobile devices should help advertisers to seamlessly adapt to a user’s personal context—improving performance in the long run.

For advertisers, geo-location tech, private user IDs, and in-house first party data can help advertisers to identify where and when users are in the world to work out whether advertising to them is appropriate (for example, changing offers for a betting app in Italy to fit tightly regulated local gambling laws).

To start, it’s important to work with publishers who are increasingly well equipped to personalize adverts. Publishers use first party data (such as in-app analytics) and third party data (such as information gleaned from social media) to create detailed audience segments to help hone their in-app service. By drawing from this well of knowledge, advertisers can leverage this data to hone their message and targeting further.

As a result, advertisers are placed pretty well to respectfully adapt their advertising to both the in and out-of-app context that a user is in.

When within an app, advertisers should be looking to carefully target users with natively integrated adverts that fit naturally into the user flow. By combining respectful optional advertising approaches, such as incentivised video seen in Crossy Road or in feed adverts seen on Facebook, with carefully targeted campaigns, advertisers can make sure users see relevant advertising content in a way that doesn’t disrupt the user experience.

And when a user is outside of an app, an advert they see on mobile should feel relevant to their interests right at that moment.

Advertisers who can work out where a user is, what time of day it is, and what challenges they might be facing can transform mobile adverts into solutions to problems—such as helping a user stranded at an airport late at night to get a cab.

Finally, on top of all of this work, publishers can help by taking control of what adverts are displayed within their apps. By favouring native ad formats and taking advantage of advertisers’ segmentation data, publishers can play an important role in both providing the right context for mobile advertising and pushing back against advertisers who fail to respect users.

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In conclusion

Context matters in mobile advertising for the classic reason of serving the right user at the right moment. But it goes beyond that.

Context matters in mobile advertising because it helps advertisers respectfully solve personal problems on behalf of users. By taking into account personal taste, individual needs as well as the in and out-of-app context of a user at a particular moment, mobile advertisers can stop being advertisers and start being problem solvers.

And by solving users’ problems, mobile advertisers can build long term respectful relationships—increasing the effectiveness of their campaign and trust for the sector amongst customers in the long run.

About Eddie de Guia

Eddie is Managing Director and Co-Founder of PubNative, the mobile publisher platform fully focused on native advertising. He comes with 10+ years of experience in digital marketing with leadership positions in various roles from business development, ad operations and products in multiple digital media disciplines.
View all posts by Eddie de Guia >

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