The industry needs to act now to improve the mobile ad experience

For over a decade the Australian digital media industry has equated mobile advertising with simple banner ads. Carl Poplett argues that now is the time for the market to rethink how it is engaging with both consumers and advertisers on the mobile platform.

The good old 320×50 banner was the birth child of the mobile ad industry a decade ago.


The industry fell in love with the banner ad for a few simple reasons: it delivered a low barrier to entry, had the benefit of cheap production costs, and also the ability to run at scale across multiple publishers and ad networks.

Yet increasingly the signs are that consumers are beyond tired of the old mobile banner ad, as we have known it.

According to Telsyte, we already live in an era where around seven per cent of Australian smartphone users are empowered with ad-blocking technology, and mobile content responsiveness is now a key consumer expectation.

Carl Poplett

Carl Poplett

To be clear: it is not just some “nice-to-have” that publishers balance consumer engagement with a brand’s need to be at the centre of the mobile advertising experience.

However, it is something we as an industry have really struggled with.

As Mumbrella’s Alex Hayes pointed out last year, in an Australian industry that prides itself on the strength of its creative, the mobile ad experience has been lacking to say the least.

For the record: he was right.

Publishers have a responsibility to provide quality ad experiences that are engaging to the user and drive a meaningful outcome for the client.

Over the last year, here at Nine we have worked hard to improve the mobile ad experience and learnt some interesting lessons in the process.

Consumers care about how much data is used to view an ad, how long it takes to load, and – most importantly – whether or not it’s engaging.

It’s for this reason we launched a range of new mobile formats back in June.

As a business we went into this process knowing that our new mobile ads had to be better in order to engage consumers, for example by introducing a slide ad function, but importantly, not getting in the way of them enjoying the content – and if the ad did do this, it had to have the option to easily close the ad.

Ad formats on Nine's Pickle site

Ad formats on Nine’s Pickle site

And while it’s still early days, the campaign results have been solid.

The new ad formats have consistently outperformed the standards set by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), with time in view ranging from three to 12 seconds.

At a time when viewability is increasingly a hot-button issue across the industry, we have been seeing viewability results exceeding 70 per cent on these formats.

That’s a lot more than the typical mobile banner ad and that’s because these high-impact mobile ads provide a more compelling ad experience for the consumer; and by extension, the advertiser gets what they want, which is a deeper engagement with that consumer.

The other key part of this equation, however, is also making it easy for advertisers and their agencies to buy these rich mobile ads.

To come back to Alex’s original argument about the poor standard of mobile advertising, he was right when he noted there was a “need to innovate the ad offerings”.

But this isn’t just about the ad formats, it’s about making sure the industry doesn’t make it too hard for marketers and agencies to then trade these formats.

This has also been another major stumbling block where publishers needed to again put experience at the centre of things – the only difference here is this time it’s the advertiser experience that needs to improve.

It’s for this reason that Australian publishers have realised they need to partner with ad-tech providers to make our mobile formats accessible programmatically.

If you look at the work being done by local ad-tech players such as Playground XYZ (and full confession, Nine is among the local publishers working with them) you see that the industry is now – finally – making strides in the right direction, where a brand can build one or two rich mobile ad executions across a number of certified sites.

The calculation here is simple: the easier it is for marketers and agencies to buy good mobile advertising, the more likely they are to do it.

Too often the industry puts engaging mobile advertising, be it things like site skins, bespoke ad units or different ad types, in the too-hard basket. But collectively we have failed to recognise the benefit that doing this will see in consumer engagement.

Historically, mobile banner ads didn’t work well because advertisers were simply trying to squash what was often a desktop ad onto the mobile platform.

As a publishing sector we need to think about mobile in a completely different way, one that recognises the experience for both consumers and advertisers alike can and should be better.

Carl Poplett is head of mobile product sales at Nine Entertainment Co.


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