Is Mobile Redundant?: What We Learned at IAB’s Mobile Marketplace

Last week the IAB held our seventh Mobile Marketplace event, a guided tour of the “Mobile Now” world. For those unable to attend we wanted to weave together some of the main themes that came up through the day, as they illuminate the state of the industry.

We framed the day with the fundamental question: Is mobile redundant? If mobile is so big and omnipresent, does that mean it’s meaningless? Do we even need to have a conversation — or a conference — about it? All the speakers in the day either directly or indirectly addressed this question.

Getting Beyond the “Digibabble”

First off, there is a strong sentiment across leaders in all positions in the industry that if we talk about mobile we should be talking about people not devices or networks, and that we need to do so in plain language. David Sable, global chief executive (CEO) of Y&R, was particularly eloquent about the problem of what he calls “digibabble” and “mobile-babble” that makes things unnecessarily complicated and avoids finding solutions by making the problems more obscure — sometimes even comical. We need to ground our thinking and speaking in business needs and not get lost in the technical intricacies.

This echoes IAB’s longstanding mantra that the answer to the “what is mobile?” question is that it’s about how we live our lives, not about our gadgets or networks.

The Creative Call to Arms

One thing we took away from the event was a call to arms for improved creative. We know better creative works better, and if we’re going to hold ourselves accountable for “viewable” mobile impressions (more on that in a moment), we also need to hold the creative community accountable for creating ads that people want to view.

The good news is there are more and more examples of great creative executions that lead the industry in the right direction. Celtra, IPG, Joule, Mobext, Pandora, and Showtime (to name just a few presenters) all offered sterling examples and some of their learning on how to make them. Successful mobile creative can involve tight integration with a specific app, publisher, or event, but it also can and does work in more general contexts — and standardized ad placements – too. Ads that make video touchable, that create a beautiful, “shakeable” user interface, and that incorporate vibration within the device to literally put the drama of a show in the palm of your hand all point toward what the whole creative community can and should do with mobile.

“Measurement Shocking”

On the measurement front, the call to action is very clear. 2015 is the year that mobile matures from a metrics point of view, a point driven home in a conversation between Richy Glassberg of Medialets and George Ivie, head of the Media Rating Council, laying out the path ahead for “Making Mobile Measurement Make Sense.” The audience’s biggest take away from that conversation is the news that desktop viewability solutions just don’t work in mobile. This might seem shocking to some, although as Glassberg phrased it that’s “measurement shocking, not Walking Dead shocking,” but still this is something many have simply overlooked or don’t realize.

At present, no vendor has been accredited for having a mobile viewability solution. And we know that the industry has a lot to learn to figure out the technical ramifications of implementing viewability in mobile. To cite just one simple example, if a mobile device is constantly sending information about the viewability or non-viewability of ads over the network, that has implications for both battery life and data usage, where we don’t want to harm consumers’ interests or make them want to turn their phones off.

Beyond that, we need to break down metrics and data silos, get better at measuring paid, owned, and earned media, and seek new ways to assess what’s working on mobile screens, but also across screens.

Another area where measurement needs to be clearer is its role in helping ad buyers understand mobile programmatic. IAB’s new marketer research suggests a lot of interest in mobile programmatic but not so much actual adoption yet, and this is part of the landscape where there’s still significant digibabble to clarify.

Mobile Next

So, is mobile redundant? No, it’s certainly not. Just because mobile is the new normal in our lives, we still have a lot to figure out when it comes to what works in marketing and advertising. That said, it’s no longer a question of whether a medium is mobile or not mobile…it’s all a spectrum from more mobile to less mobile. And things get even more “more mobile” all the time.

We came away from the day inspired by the creativity that mobile is awakening in the industry, and also with a clearer sense of purpose in the “Mobile Now” world.

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