Mobile development has been on a tear following the rise of smartphones and faster wireless networks, but the technology and marketing capabilities of mobile still fall short of the greater web on multiple counts. ClickZ recently caught up with Naveen Tewari, CEO at mobile ad network InMobi, to have him size up mobile's impact on digital marketing and pinpoint where mobile falls short or goes above and beyond online.
"One of the biggest challenges that exists out there, in an industry which is quite early in its days yet has so much fragmentation, is that nothing talks to each other. It's very hard for a dollar that goes into the system to come out of the other end without going through hiccups. As we saw that challenge, we basically said, 'Hey, we've got to clean that up," he tells ClickZ, reflecting on InMobi's drive to simplify mobile advertising.
"I would say creative is ahead, tracking is catching up, and targeting is something which the promise is very visible, but because of a few of these infrastructural pieces around common IDs, etc., there is still some distance to go," he says.
"The engagement on the creative is just phenomenal right now. Whether you take rich media, you take video, you take the capabilities of the devices and convert that from a very highly engaging advertising that you can show to the user, I think there is a lot of work that's happening on the creatives, and the creative optimization, the pure engagement and the metrics around it," Tewari adds.
While he believes mobile creative is outshining the web, there is no disputing the fact that adoption and scale of mobile creative is nothing close to the web. But from a pure technology capability point of view, Tewari sees mobile creative leapfrogging the web at an increasing rate.
Meanwhile, mobile has many inherent complexities that are holding back its ability to catch up with online marketing practices. While there are multiple solutions aimed at circumnavigating these complexities, the magnitude of issues that arise from a lack of cookies, app versus web, different operating systems, devices, countries, network operators, and more continue to have a negative impact on the efficacy of mobile advertising.
"That one big problem is getting tamed regularly and it's moving in the right direction," Tewari says. So while tracking is still "a few steps behind where web is," he believes the ongoing search for a cookie replacement will be resolved in the next year or so.
"There is no one standard that has yet come out. That is obviously an issue. I think there are a bunch of solutions hovering around out there, none that is yet a consistent one. Every player is making their efforts around whether it's fingerprint technologies, using some form of UDID, or some kind of other type," he says. "I would argue that it's within a year or so from now before we will actually start to converge on one standard. And when that happens, I think we will start to see the surge of a lot of performance and next-level advertising dollars because tracking kind of goes to the next level."
Targeting is another animal in mobile altogether, and one that InMobi and others are investing more time and resources on as the industry coalesces around a vision for greater impact on brand performance and consumer interest.
"We have close to 500 engineers in the company and we believe that with all the right data in the world and all the technologies that we've built we should be able to get to the next level of targeting, which mobile actually deserves and has had the promise for a lot of years, but it's obviously a few years before people see that promise at scale," Tewari says.
"The targeting front is where we are behind and we are behind because there is a promise of a lot of these signals, they are starting to come in, but because of tracking not being completely in place the utilization of that data is not as strong as it should be, and therefore trying to pull inferences and useful insights out of that becomes a little hard," he adds. "Whether the data is in the form of the content, in the form of location, in the form of usage pattern, in the form of user context at that point of time - all of those are signals that one has to figure out what to do with it, so there is a lot of work that is happening on the targeting product."
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Matt Kapko has been writing about mobile since 2006, before it became cool. Based in Long Beach, CA, he has covered mobile entertainment, digital media, marketing, and advertising for several business media outlets. A former editor and reporter for RCR Wireless News, paidContent, and iMedia Connection, Matt is a regular freelance reporter for ClickZ. You can follow Matt on Twitter at @MattKapko or drop him a line at email@example.com.
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