Back to Basics or the Mobile Advertiser’s Dilemma

John Wanamaker, oft considered the father of modern advertising, is attributed with saying, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half”.  Nearly a century later, the technologies and medium used for advertising have changed, but his observation is often still evident. The modern advertiser’s dilemma is made even more complex by the seemingly unlimited options available, particularly within the display advertising space.  That being said, the ability to understand what works is within grasp. 

Advertising is about one thing: enabling a consumer to do more of something (engage with a brand, convert, etc).  At its most effective, advertising achieves this goal by communicating to the right person at the right place and the right time.  Unfortunately, advertisers tend to shoot for this goal immediately post-implementation.  They utilize every possible optimization tool and technology at their disposal, making instantaneous decisions.  This trigger finger syndrome is actually responsible for a program losing revenue, as it takes time to truly understand how that advertising is impacting behavior. 

For a program to be successful, it must be predicated upon solid planning and measurement.  Most media plans are optimized without any agreement as to what constitutes success nor how it will be measured.  It is this fundamental key that is lacking in the mobile display advertising space today.

Back to Basics

Although the optimization tools at Advertisers’ disposal are powerful, they must overcome the temptation to use them from the onset, and instead wait to isolate that solid baseline advertising’s impact is designed to create.  So what would this look like?    

In the planning stage, an Advertiser could perhaps approach it much like those primary building blocks of writing a story:

  • Who is our target consumer?
  • What is the metric of success?
  • Where can we find them?
  • When do we want them to take action?
  • Why do we want them to act?
  • How will we get them to do this?

A few of these will generally not change over the course of a campaign.  The ‘who’, ‘when’, ‘where’, and ‘why’ will more or less remain relatively static.  The ‘what’ and the ‘how’, though, will change through results and testing.

Let’s start with the ‘what: what is the metric of success?  Generally, with RON acquisition media, the emphasis should be on driving brand engagement or awareness.  How many consumers post-impression interact with the Advertiser’s site?  It’s important here to not get stuck with on only one idea of accomplishment.  As our analysts are found of saying, ‘with data, there’s always a story.’

The ‘how’ defines the method of communication.  What will incentivize the consumer to do more of what the Advertiser would like them to do?  What if that offer is not getting the reaction the Advertiser would like?  How can it be improved moving forward?  At what point in time can the Advertiser definitively say that the current offer isn’t working?

The Analysis

In the end, understanding and measuring success is about the shifts in consumer behavior.  It’s less an attribution game, bucketing dollars owed to affiliates, and more about understanding mobile display’s impact at the per unique level in relation to a specific action.  Essentially, how does mobile display impact consumer behavior across time?  What behavioral shifts are you getting for the dollars invested?   The question that must always remain paramount is how to best advertise in order to get consumers to do more of something?  As such, an Advertiser must consistently and responsibly measure, across partners and initiatives.