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Mobile ad measurement: The impediment to mobile ad industry scale

Anthony Iacovone

Anthony Iacovone is founder/CEO of AdTheorent

By Anthony Iacovone

We all concede that there is a huge gap in traditional mobile advertising measurement. Since the prevailing industry standard for measurement is clicks, advertisers put all their efforts and confidence in measuring clicks as a barometer for campaign success.  

But with fat-finger issues and a slew of other unintentional in-application and in-video touches, attribution is a big problem, and it is clear that clicks can be a dangerous false positive for advertisers. Add to that the hypersensitivity of the untrusting consumer and advertisers have an even steeper obstacle to overcome. 

Moving past the click hump – and into mobile measurement 2.0 where advertisers measure post-click behavior – is crucial for our industry’s ability to scale. Doing this ethically while respecting consumer privacy is absolutely essential. 

The good news is there are sophisticated tools available to help mobile advertisers measure and analyze engagement beyond the click, into and post-conversion. 

Connecting to the path of purchase: Cross-device analytics
In today’s environment, the ability to harness massive amounts of data across devices is key to understanding purchasing behavior in mobile. And this must be done across the mobile Web, in apps, across rich media and in video. 

An ad may start on a mobile device but what happens if a consumer ultimately makes that purchase on his or her home PC or Mac? 

Cross-device analytics tools can view not only the first brand and product interactions, but connect this behavior to where and how a consumer discovers and shares information that leads to a purchase, and when, where and how the purchase is made.

Industry momentum and education
The industry is focusing more on measurement following last month’s announcement from the Interactive Advertising Bureau, Mobile Marketing Association and the Media Ratings Council, who together finalized their “Measurement Guidelines for Mobile Application and Mobile Web Advertising.” 

The guidelines educate the industry and establish a new standardized framework for measuring in-app ads to address the quality of impression counts and buyer transparency across applications and the mobile Web. 

Joe Lazlo, the IAB’s senior director of the Mobile Marketing Center of Excellence, commented that the state of mobile app audience measurement is definitely becoming an impediment to faster growth of in-app advertising revenues, and more specifically that it is “... not just apps – it’s cross device mobile ad attribution, going beyond clicks.”

Accountability and transparency while respecting consumer privacy
Unlike traditional Internet browsers, most mobile Web browsers do not use cookies. As a result, mobile advertisers have relied more on device identifiers such as Apple's "Unique Device Identifiers" (UDID) or Android's "International Mobile Equipment Identity" (IMEI). 

Recently, such usage is in flux as device manufacturers depreciate the use of device IDs and as consumer advocates question the use of potentially personally identifiable IDs for marketing and advertising purposes. 

Measuring post-click behavior across a variety of mobile advertising tactics that is protective of consumers’ privacy is essential. 

Success depends on the ability to model against post-click events such as app downloads or product purchases that take place both online and offline. This type of valuable conversion analytics is the basis for “mobile measurement 2.0” and will help advertisers scale campaigns and better understand consumers while protecting their rights to privacy.   

Ultimately, these developments will help the industry scale. Instead of depending on hardware IDs that are linked to a consumer’s personal information, advertisers can use tools that work with standards such as Apple’s IFA and ClickID and Android's IMEI. 

This way, advertisers can identify the post-click behavior of a device within the context of their own mobile property without identifying the device or linking it to any specific user. 

AT THE END of the day, we all recognize that there needs to be an overhaul to how advertisers measure mobile ad interactions and campaign success. 

The tools are here to help, and the level of sophistication is significant and growing. Just remember to look well beyond the click and connect the dots to the path of purchase.

Anthony Iacovone is founder/CEO of AdTheorent, New York. Reach him at

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Related content: Columns, Anthony Iacovone, AdTheorent, mobile ad measurement, clicks, luxury marketing, luxury, mobile advertising, mobile marketing, mobile commerce, mobile

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