Mobile ad networks and technology vendors have historically been forced to handle ad production work themselves, owing largely the emerging HTML5 technology on which mobile ads are usually based. Some appear keen to avoid that responsibility, however, choosing instead to provide clients with self-service tools to help reduce their role in the production process.
In the past week Medialets and Crisp Media have rolled out mobile campaign management platforms that include the ability for agencies, publishers and advertisers to build large portions of their own creative using simple interfaces and pre-produced ad templates. Earlier this year, Apple too unveiled a drag and drop solution to produce ads to run across its iAd network, having produced ads itself in-house previously.
"Historically we've handed off creative assets to be built by an ad network or publisher," said Paul Gelb, VP and mobile practice lead at Razorfish. "I don't know of any network or mobile ad provider that doesn't have a plan to get out of that role."
Razorfish has been involved with numerous campaigns in conjunction with Medialets, as well as Apple's iAd network, before suggesting the introduction of self-service platforms could have benefits for agencies as well as lightening the load for ad providers. For example, they might include ad templates already featuring deep measurement integration, around which creative can be tailored and adapted. "We're always looking for ways to extract insights from our creative, and to see how people are interacting with it," Gelb said.
Gelb also implied those tools might enable agencies to "push limits" of what is technically possible with mobile ads, since vendors could provide frameworks featuring new and innovative applications of their SDKs.
The fact remains, however, that networks and platform providers are still building the majority of rich media campaigns themselves. Twelve of Medialets' 60-strong staff, for example, are currently devoted to creative and production.
Aiming to capitalize on that opportunity are firms like Sprout, which offers a web-based mobile ad production tool (pictured). The product is already being used by publishers, as well as ad networks including Google-owned AdMob. The company is also in talks with Medialets, its VP of business development, Adam Taisch, told ClickZ.
Rather than hand-coding HTML5 ads the software offers the ability to create flexible and full featured creative using a drag-and-drop style interface. Ad networks and other vendors can use the tool to easily import assets provided by creative agencies and build ads compatible with a range of SDKs and platforms. "Whether they like it or not, networks and publishers are going to continue to handle creative in the medium term," he said.
Having found traction among publishers and networks, Sprout is now hoping to crack the agency market, Taisch said. He suggested that's more of a long-term goal however, stating, "agencies don't move that quickly."
As far is Gelb is concerned, the continued difficulties around implementing a mobile campaign are a good thing for Razorfish, which already possesses technical expertise in the area. "We don't believe it's easy to execute on mobile well, but that's a good thing. If we can deliver for clients in an area that's hard to crack, that ads value," he said.
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Jack Marshall was a staff writer and stats editor for ClickZ News from 2007 until August 2011.