Insights, tools and research to advance journalism

Mobile advertising needs more creative thinking

Rather than just think ‘advertising,’ think of ‘useful services’ for readers and sponsors

Publishers should fundamentally rethink how to monetize mobile products, beyond just conventional display ads shrunk to smaller screens. That was a universal message among the participants in our mobile summit.

Publishers moving into mobile have to figure out how they can be useful to the user. And the same goes for mobile advertising and marketing. If publishers better understand what utility they provide to the audience, they can charge sponsors to provide their own version of that same utility.

If publishers understand what utility they provide to the audience, they can charge sponsors to provide their own version of that same utility.

For example, Google Maps helps users locate and navigate to places. That is its utility. And to make money, it helps sponsors embrace that same utility through premium listings for their businesses that are more visible than others and offer deals and incentives.

News publishers’ utility is informing and entertaining people with accurate, creative content. So for sponsors it makes sense to offer them a commercial version of that same utility — sponsored content that tells the stories of a brand willing to pay for it. This leads to something like native advertising or sponsored content (which we held a previous summit on and wrote about extensively here).

If you inform people, you help brands inform people too. If you entertain people through videos or GIFs, you help brands do that too.

Successful mobile publishers will align their advertising offerings with their unique content strengths. The result is a mobile service where both the editorial and commercial content are useful and relevant. And where none of the limited screen space is lost to ad banners people learn to ignore.

Location-based advertising is not just about where the user is right now

Looking at location prediction is powerful and is the direction that Google is trending with its Google Now products.

For example, serve an ad for a restaurant on where someone is going to be at lunchtime, not where they are right now. By lunchtime when I’m there, it’s already too late — the person’s plans have been made.

At least for certain kinds of advertisers and ads, those that are not instantaneous impulse buys, location patterns over time matter more than a user’s current location.

Use ads that embrace the device

Mobile devices have so much more to offer advertising than just porting ads from the desktop environment. Mobile ads can take advantage what users can do with phones.

Ads can respond to what the user is doing via sensors, the most useful of which is GPS and location tracking. Knowing where a user is can help a publisher target ads that offer services and deals in their vicinity.

Ads can also take advantage of other functions smartphones are capable of performing.

A simple click-to-view-more ad may not be the best way to approach some campaigns, when instead the ad could let the user click to call a business, or even to add an event to their calendar, set an appointment to visit a store, view locations on a map, or to get a push notification reminder of something in the future.

One example of embracing what mobile devices do comes from KING-5 in Seattle, which worked with the area’s top car wash business to trigger a push notification about getting a wash when the forecast called for it to be dry for the next four days.

One key to these approaches is to make sure specific calls to action are outlined for the user. And make sure you can track whether and how users take those actions. Think through the entire campaign from ad view to end of experience.

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