5 Takeaways From “The Best Mobile Ad Campaigns”

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The theme of the session? While pegging advertising in the mobile space is a complicated game, several brands are doing it well by keeping it simple, shooting for downloads and geo-targeting.

On our first day on the scene at Austin’s SXSW Interactive festival, we heard from a trio of innovative ad industry leaders on issues surrounding mobile advertising — where it has been, who has done it well and where it is headed.

Drew Neisser, CEO at the New York-based social media and content marketing agency Renegade moderated the panel, which included Webster Lewin, SVP and director of Mobility at Starcom MediaVest Group and Rob Griffin, EVP and global director of production development from Havas Media. Here are five lessons we learned about mobile ads from this session:

1. It’s all about location, location, location
Targeting potential customers by location is no new concept, but Griffin said there are many more layers to this idea with mobile. It’s not enough to just deliver mobile ads to users who are physically in the area where they might purchase a product — now, brands must provide some kind of “contextual relevance.” Advertisers should ask themselves “‘what is [the consumer] doing in that moment that would make them want to purchase [a particular product]?’” He pointed to an REI/Columbia campaign that carried out an advanced iteration of geo-targeting. The results? More clicks, more engagement and more revenue.

2. Mobile ads should be simple and functional
Griffin said it best: “mobile shouldn’t be sexy.” Despite the “mobile-first” attitudes of so many brands, agencies and publishers, Griffin said it’s important that mobile is easily integrated into all of a brand’s marketing efforts. If it doesn’t add “real value to a consumer” and isn’t functional on a basic level (functional meaning that it works seamlessly from start to finish, said Lewin), it isn’t a good mobile ad. When it comes to fancy or overcomplicated mobile ad designs, “just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should do it,” Griffin said Friday.

3. Responsive ads are on the rise, especially among publishers
While, as Lewin said, many brands are still figuring out to best monetize responsive ads, some have fully embraced responsive. Mashable’s Motorola Motomaker responsive ad is a prime example of this welcoming attitude toward ads that fit across platforms. Using responsiveads.com, Forbes, the Interactive Advertising Bureau, Digiday and others are experimenting with responsive. “The [ad] industry isn’t ready [for responsive ads], but publishers are. Publishers are going directly to these solutions,” Lewin said.

4. Social media + mobile ads = more traffic
Brands must tie their mobile ad presentation into social media efforts. The majority of mobile usage occurs within the home, said Lewin, and advertisers tend to target primetime television slots for social ad campaigns (think sponsored tweets). Why not use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine, Foursquare and others to drive traffic to your brand’s mobile products (e.g. apps)? Lewin said that Mashable’s social media traffic boosts its mobile traffic.

5. Ads on mobile are most effective when there’s something to download
As Neisser noted, there will be 100 billion app downloads this year. Referring to his favorite mobile ad — Proctor & Gamble’s Sit or Squat ad — he reminded us that it’s actually an app. Charmin’s clever approach toward creating an app that aids users in finding clean restrooms on-the-go underscores as a strong advertisement for the popular toilet paper brand.

The bottom line: Brands and publishers must learn to create mobile ads that are minimally intrusive but profit-maximizing. Neisser said the best strategy for doing this is ensuring the ad provides something of significant value to the consumer. ”It’s no longer an ad when it’s of value to you,” he said.

Coming up for tomorrow’s dispatch from Austin: “The Form Factor Is the Message” featuring the CEO of Cheezburger Ben Huh, “It’s Complicated: Teens’ Social Media Practices” and “Beyond Unplugging: How to Stay Sane Online.”

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