Mobile Today: Time to Explore, Experiment, and Evaluate

Q & A with Jo Rabin, Director of MobileMonday London

AdMonsters connected with Jo Rabin, Director of MobileMonday London to get his take on the state of mobile advertising. Jo will analyze current mobile trends and discuss successful strategies for mobile in his keynote, “Mobile Is Not the Future. It’s Now.” at the upcoming AdMonsters Publisher Forum in Oxford from November 13-15.



Q. What’s one thing that excites you about mobile advertising today? Which aspects of mobile advertising should publishers be most tuned-in to?

It is tough to choose just one thing. It’s a very exciting time all round in mobile. Half of the UK population now have smart phones and their use online has grown tremendously over the last 18 months. So mobile has extremely rapidly become a very important channel if you judge only by the weight of numbers. On top of that we see that the engagement with ads is much higher on mobile than is the case on the desktop, and we can see the channel becoming even more important than numbers alone would suggest.

It’s still early days for advertising in this channel, and there is a great deal to explore. The availability of contextual information – especially location, but other aspects as well – is of particular importance, and I’m looking forward to seeing the creativity that goes in to using these new aspects. 

Publishers do need to be careful, though. The same personal qualities that make mobile a very high engagement channel also mean that thresholds of privacy and so on can be crossed with a strong negative effect. Mobile users will be far from pleased if the limits of their data plan are exceeded by use of large media in advertising, and likewise will be sensitive to conserving their battery life. 

In short, the opportunities are fantastic, but caution needs to be exercised.

Q. Publishers currently face the dilemma of deciding whether to focus on the mobile web, develop an app, or both. However, some may argue that apps will be a short-lived solution for mobile. Which avenue do you recommend?

It’s certainly a difficult choice. The answer will be different for different brands and sectors. “You can’t learn to swim without getting into a swimming pool” – in other words, you have to be prepared to experiment. There’s a danger that if you’re not prepared to find out what works for you, you’ll get left behind those who are prepared to do so. And these things are moving very quickly indeed.

We’re still seeing a fair amount of “We’ve gotta have an app” – which comes without a critical appraisal of what overall brand purpose it serves, how it ties in with other initiatives, or a meaningful attempt to capture metrics from it. To that extent, you could say that a lot of the activity around apps is really “playing” at the moment. But there’s a danger that a misconstrued app initiative can really cause brand damage.

I believe that it’s too early to say what the long term trends will be. Logic tells me that the Web is going to be a good answer for many brands. But logic is not always at play here, especially when the ops director is asked “Why don’t we have an app?” I think it likely that there will be massive consolidation of the underlying platforms – that makes life easier since developing separate a small number of versions of each app is clearly more financially tractable than developing a large number. Current trends show Android accelerating, and iOS (iPhone, iPod and iPad) declining. RIM BlackBerry is actually ahead of iOS in current UK sales. The elephant in the room is what will happen with the combination of MS Windows Phone and Nokia.

I wish it was possible to give clearer guidance – but right now it’s time to explore, experiment and evaluate. 

 Q. Should publishers hire mobile specialists or work to integrate mobile into their overall processes?

The short answer is both. Companies that see that mobile is the major and long term channel are building mobile expertise in-house. That makes sense and contrasts with the approach that was taken with the arrival of the Web, which was initially treated as something that should be outsourced. However, there are a relatively modest number of people available with relevant skills at the moment – and there’s a lot to learn and not much time to learn it in. 

So it makes sense to use specialists to learn about the medium and to try to try to achieve the best possible mobile experience.

Q. What should publishers take into consideration when deciding whether or not to develop a branded app?

If your app gets downloaded and used more than once you are doing well. Everything else follows from that. Is that sufficient and is it a cost effective way of communicating your message?

Q. As an industry, should we be concerned with over-focusing the word “mobile”? How does mobile connect to other forms of media?


It may see odd to say this at a time where the term “mobile” has become so prominent but I think that over time the term will cover too broad a spectrum of delivery platforms to be really helpful. For example, at the moment “tablets” are a very hot topic, and I believe it’s a mistake to think that a single design – of app, or Web site – will cover both formats. Although tablets have a (relative to smart phone) small market share at the moment their importance is set to rise and it’s also true, I think, that their demographics make their significance greater that the relative market share would suggest. 

There’s also a growing trend for platforms and channels to be used in tandem with each other. For example, lots of people watch TV while using their phone or tablet. This provides very interesting opportunities for multi-channel engagements as well as necessitating a “cross-channel” philosophy in terms of developing your presence.

Once again, though, a note of caution. Developing your presence on someone’s most personal device means being respectful of the trust and the intimacy that implies.
OPS Mobile

Interested in learning more about mobile advertising? OPS Mobile will bring digital advertising leaders and ops professionals together to discuss and develop best practices for operational excellence in a world of connected devices. Register today for OPS Mobile, AdMonsters’ mobile advertising conference, which will be held December 7, 2011 in New York.