The Keys to Mobile-Display Relevance

An eMarketer report declared that mobile display will be a dominant ad format by 2015, when U.S. mobile ad spending will increase to $1.9 billion from this year’s $434 million. More advertisers are willing to invest in mobile, particularly display ads, because of its advanced targeting capabilities and the opportunities to engage a growing population of smartdevice users.

If you are one of those advertisers who hopes to get in early and reap the rewards of targeting a highly desirable audience of engaged consumers, keep in mind that making the most out of your mobile-display ad buys will require a change in mindset from the more familiar desktop advertising. That’s because mobile display is unique from its desktop counterpart in three distinct ways.


Location-based targeting is more important for mobile than desktop, as mobile can target users based on their exact locations versus desktop’s broader capabilities of targeting by IP addresses or search histories. Due to this granular level of targeting, mobile allows advertisers the ability to incite consumers to take local actions.

As a result, marketers will want to first determine the desired reach of their campaigns, keeping in mind that mobile can be targeted to very specific local areas such as a specific business address, radius from an address or Zip code, and even a specific latitude or longitude. Please note that although pinpoint accuracy limits your advertising risk, it could, in turn, limit your branding goals because fewer consumers will be exposed to your ads the more narrowly you focus your campaigns. My advice is to start with your business’s physical location, and then determine the radius of your reach – or how far away you want your advertising to be seen by consumers. From there, you can always refine your focus either more narrowly or more broadly, depending on the initial results.

Finally, embedded in the local granularity of mobile targeting is also a time component. As an advertiser, you must simultaneously satisfy both the where and the when if you’re to appeal to consumers who are not only nearby but also demonstrating serious, immediate purchase intent. Fortunately, most ad providers offer both geo-targeting and dayparting (remember to ask about marrying the two for optimal performance).


You have probably been instructed to integrate your marketing strategies across all media. That’s true to a point. Again, mobile requires a new mindset. In fact, the Interactive Advertising Bureau recently released a statement asking advertisers to shed the one-size-fits-all approach because mobile display is very different than traditional online display. You cannot assume that what works online will work in mobile.

A big reason for separating the two is that mobile requires simplicity. Bandwidth, load times, and processing power are just some of the preventative measures keeping highly interactive online ads from performing well on smartphones. On top of that, online ads run a greater risk of not rendering properly on mobile because they’re formatted only for traditional browsers, whereas mobile ads must appease a fragmented landscape of devices, operating systems, etc.

Holding firm to simplicity, understand that mobile also comes with advanced features, like built-in cameras and real-time GPS, that do a better job of engaging end users in meaningful ways. I encourage you to marry your creative with some of those features to create ads that do more, like inciting action. For example, tie into your creative a coupon or code that can be instantly utilized without printing. But whatever you do, be sure to test how your creative transfers to the mobile screen, which will impact the consumer’s impression of you.

When combined with local targeting, creative can even speak to a consumer’s exact location, plus be embedded with other locally relevant content such as offers, directions, click to call, and social sharing. You can even incorporate local weather patterns into your ads. For example, a roofing contractor wanting to appeal to a consumer needing shingle replacements may want to cite in his display ads the recent hailstorm that swept through the searcher’s area.


With mobile, you can actually target consumers based on platform: browser, operating system, and device. On the contrary, online display only gives advertisers access to a user’s browser type. With mobile’s advanced targeting capabilities come even deeper insights into user demographics, as each platform reaches a slightly different age group, income status, gender, etc. Take, for example, the demographic differences between users of smartphones and non-smartphones. Given that the smartphone audience is typically comprised of younger, more-affluent users compared to the featurephone audience, consider how this might translate in your targeting and creative goals.


Based on demographic data, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with your target audience before proceeding, so you reach the right consumers with the right ads. Analyzing user information by platform ensures that your ads fit in with mobile experiences specific to each end user. If you’re unsure, work with an ad network or agency provider that’ll help you wade through the marketplace and myriad of options. If you’re going at it alone, I encourage you to focus on a specific platform for which you tailor your ads; once your campaign concludes, use what you’ve learned to set benchmarks and expand from there.

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