ROI·DNA Reads: Getting Creative with Mobile Ads

April 24, 2014
Women looking at phones

Bottom Line:

Mobile Marketer recently examined Forrester’s latest ad data on smartphones and tablets, noting that despite all the advancements mobile is making in other areas, targeting and creativity haven’t kept pace. Marketers still tend to use boring or annoying ads, so consumers have learned to ignore and avoid them. Still, your consumers are browsing online with their smartphones – now more than ever. How do you get their attention with fresh, funny, provocative content?

Our Take:

Before going down that road, you’ll have to determine whether programmatic or publisher-specific buys on mobile is the better option.

If you want to spend the least amount of money, use self-serve ad networks like Google and eventually invest in programmatic once you find signs of a return on investment. Programmatic efficiency and performance often doesn’t happen in the first few months; first, mess around with targeting, make small buys, and find what works. Programmatic buys should not be the first step because they’re difficult to harness without significant budget to let the ad targeting learn what works and what doesn’t. You always have to spend money to make money, but with programmatic ads, the amount spent is typically higher before you start seeing returns.

Direct buys are more of a premium placement, but you’ll be able to target pretty precisely. If you want to show up on specific pages and target a specific demographic, do direct buys on distinct placements like clothing in The New York Times fashion section. You need to know enough about the placement and you need to know you’re targeting the right folks. Then you can rule out statistical noise from programmatic buys.

All this begs the bigger question. People are on their phones for a purpose and they’re typically on the go – engaging with advertisements can be very tricky. So, how do you make attention-grabbing ads that aren’t annoying?

Shy away from pop-out banners, keep control over the publishers and be willing to pay more for quality placements. Remember, getting a user to accidentally click on an ad is almost always useless, even hurtful to your brand. Even if it’s more expensive – and it often is – spend that time on targeting and ensure the targeting is relevant. Make sure the ads are interactive and, if they are a bit obstructive, a little humor goes a long way to conversions.


To go “beyond the banner” on mobile devices, creatives needs context, which relies heavily on targeting. Failing to know what the user is doing or trying to do while looking at an ad will create frustration, even if testing shows that standard display ads perform somewhat well. And if you are going to interrupt, make it worth the user’s while with something humorous and memorable.

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