Small can be beautiful: Five tips to make good mobile ads

lisa boraFollowing an article by Mumbrella’s Alex Hayes on the state of mobile creative Google’s Lisa Bora shares some tips and Australian examples for making good mobile ads.

Alex, you’re right. Small is not always beautiful. We’ve all experienced mobile ads that confuse, obstruct or annoy. And reading your article on Monday (If mobile is the most important screen, why are the ads still so shit?) brought it all back.

It doesn’t have to be this way. There is some great creative on mobile – and when agencies combine imagination and digital skills, some truly exceptional creative too.

Mobile is a key part of digital advertising. In many countries around the world, including the US and Japan, more people use Google search on mobile than desktop. So we appreciate a great mobile ad when we see it. With that in mind, here are our five tips for producing great creative on mobile, each demonstrated with an Aussie example.

1. Make it easy

When we are on our mobiles, we don’t have the time, patience or eyesight for reading long bodies of text. An ad that seems clean on desktop can give us cognitive overload on a mobile screen. With a scarcity of space, your proposition has to shine through with more clarity than ever before. Hyundai’s ad for their Tucson is a great example: a single, aspirational image and a ‘play’ button bang in the middle of the screen for those who want to watch a video. Job done.

mobile tuscon

2. Make it targeted

Mobile takes location targeting to new heights. Telstra used this feature by geotargeting ‘treats’ to people within a 5km radius of particular stores (also timed to lunchtime, and the morning and evening commute). This meant people got offers based on where they were and what they liked – a cheap coffee from a nearby cafe, or a discount on handbags from a shop down the road. The creative was engaging and made the proximity of the offer clear. Give the people what they want.

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3. Make it worthwhile

You might find this creative a little cluttered. But then again, you’re probably not a teenage boy. Nutri-Grain made their ads very hard for their target audience to ignore by offering them something valuable: in this case, a daily chance to win a GoPro. The benefit of the ad is immediately clear, and the call to action straightforward.


4. Make it polite

You don’t have to yell. Our Lightbox format is an alternative to interstitials that allows you to register your point without annoying your audience. If people like what they see, they can hover over your ad – and then be drawn into a much deeper engagement. People who view lightbox ads are four times more likely to engage with a brand (such as by clicking through to a website) than standard ads. NAB enticed people with an unobtrusive invitation to discover “Tips and tools for your business” that people could follow through to videos, a business plan template and a cash flow calculator. Your mum was right: play nice.


Screen Shot 2015-09-02 at 6.44.47 AM5. Make it useful

Our lives are made of micro-moments. And if you as a marketer can be there for someone in their moment of need, you will be remembered. In New Zealand, Pedigree created an app for dog owners in that moment of dire need: a lost dog. If a dog went AWOL, an ad was served to everyone in a 2.5km radius alerting them to the missing pooch. The ad was clear, actionable and genuinely useful.

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Easy, targeted, worthwhile, polite and useful. It’s not rocket science. But it’s often done wrong. Mobile screens are unique environments and deserve special attention. When it comes to creative, you need to think, not shrink.

So Alex, I’m with you on mobile ads. Small is not always beautiful. But it should be.

  • Lisa Bora is head of mobile at Google Australia

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