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Overcoming hurdles in mobile advertising

Nowadays marketers are betting big money on mobile advertising to not only promote new campaigns, but drive consumer engagement. However, companies still face many obstacles such as device fragmentation and poor execution.

Companies such as McDonald?s, Starbucks, JCPenney and Target have all used mobile advertising to their advantage to drive in-store traffic and connect with consumers on a deeper level. The medium still presents challenges nonetheless and marketers need to continually test and make sure their efforts are executed well.

?There is always a learning curve when it comes to new forms of marketing, but as the ubiquity of mobile devices is grows, so does the acceptance and understanding of mobile marketing,? said Alistair Goodman, CEO of Placecast, San Francisco.

?Although there are still many lessons to be learned in mobile marketing, I believe that marketers are increasingly overcoming hurdles ? both perceived and actual,? he said. ?Many marketers perceive mobile advertising as a separate vertical, where as mobile should be part of a brand's overall strategy.?

Unique target
There are many unique properties of mobile.  

Mobile phones one of the most personal devices consumers own.

Therefore, marketers need to understand that advertising should not be intrusive upon the mobile experience. If it is, consumers will avoid the product and likely have a negative association with both the company and the publisher.

Additionally, marketers should take the screen size into account.

With mobile, companies are working with less real estate. Hence, making sure the creative engaging is critical.

?We have seen that opt-in programs are the best way to market on mobile,? Mr. Goodman said. ?When consumers sign-up to get messages from a brand on their phones, they are saying that they want to participate in a relationship with that brand.

?They want to feel like they are part of a special group ? so be sure to make your mobile offers different from anything a consumer could find elsewhere, like online or in the store,? he said. ?Marketers should also take location and time of day into account ? where a person is at a certain time of day is more indicative of their readiness to purchase than most other consumer data.

?For example, a mobile marketing message or ad that's being seen at midnight will be less likely to have an effect than a message sent at 5 p.m., when the consumer is likely about to run errands and can actually act on the offer. Likewise, knowing where a consumer usually shops and sending location-based offers has proven a highly effective method of mobile marketing for major brands such as Starbucks, L'Oreal, The North Face and Kiehl?s.?

Mr. Goodman expects that more marketing dollars will be put into mobile in the coming years. The executive also believes that tablets will play a big role in marketing spend. 

?This will also be the year that mobile payments and mobile advertising converges, and we will see an increasing number of card-linked offers inside of mobile wallets,? Mr. Goodman said.

?We expect the mobile payments space to really heat up, and the players that will be able to integrate relevant, targeted ads within their mobile wallets will distinguish themselves from the rest,? he said.

Taking strides
Currently, many marketers are rolling out mobile advertising campaigns because either their competitors are doing so or because it?s the latest trend they see.

Because of this, many are missing the mark.

For example, companies such as Boar?s Head, P.F. Changs and Chipotle have all ran mobile advertising campaigns that were poorly executed.

Not only did all of the campaigns lead consumers to non-optimized landing pages, but the companies did not take advantage of mobile.

Instead of promoting new products, the companies could have added a store locator feature to their mobile ads to drive in-store traffic. An addition such as that would have been effective.

?Mobile advertising is pretty straight-forward,? said Wilson Kerr, vice president of sales and business development at Unbound Commerce, Boston. ?Mobile marketing has hurdles because it is a large and complex space, since nearly every digital message is now accessible via mobile. 

?Smart marketers overcome hurdles by avoiding big mistakes and piloting new ideas to learn the ropes,? he said. ?I think a hurdle is not taking advantage of the here and now effect to convert sales.

?Branding is fine and an age-old way to drive demand. In the mobile world, delivering the right message to the right person who is in the best possible place and time to act is key. The action can drive actual conversions and engage the consumer at the exact moment they are most likely to buy.?

According to Mr. Kerr, companies should divide their marketing efforts into ?accessible via mobile? and ?mobile-specific?.

For example, for ?accessible via mobile,? the goal is to ensure that mobile traffic has a place to land that is tailored to the form factor.

A mobile-optimized site for mobile originating traffic is important.

Additionally, for the ?mobile-specific? sector,  marketers should try and test continuously.

?QR codes are easy, inexpensive and 100 percent mobile-specific,? Mr. Kerr said. ?These trigger points can bridge the online and offline worlds and can be customized to include discounts, specials and location-specific landing pages.

?Mobile ads are fine, although largely ignored,? he said. ?Mobile marketing, on the other hand, will continue to evolve rapidly, as smart retailers and brands use mobile to link online conversions and real world trigger point scenarios to drive sales and engagement.

?As mobile payments sort themselves out, I predict acceleration in the area of contextual marketing, via mobile.?   

Mobile evolution
As evidenced by growth in spend on networks such as Millennial Media and Apple?s iAd, many marketers are overcoming the hurdles that come their way.

However, mobile advertising it is still an error-prone and tedious process.

"The biggest hurdle is the lack of consistent metrics ? device fragmentation and technical problems still abound, and buying through ad networks does not provide transparency to the marketer,? said Jim Payne, founder/CEO of MoPub, San Francisco.

?They do not know where their ad is appearing or if they are actually getting the audience that they want,? he said. ?We are starting to see technical issues solved by standards ? MRAID and IAB.

?Ad exchanges are starting to achieve a level of scale where they can provide marketers with not only reach but also transparency into what they buy. Marketers want to know where their ads are running and have confidence that they are getting the audience that they want to buy.?

Mobile advertising will shift next year to a focus on solving general digital advertising problems, according to Tom Limongello, vice president of product marketing at Crisp Media, New York.

"With Retina screen support on a wider variety of iOS and Android as well as MacBooks, there will be an interest in making creative look great and scale across varied, high resolution screen sizes," Mr. Limongello said.

"Also, demand for ads that are touch responsive on desktop websites served to tablet devices like Android Nexus 7 and the upcoming 7-inch iPad will make the IAB mobile rising star ad formats more important to marketers," he said.

"Finally native ads that are currently being run by publishers like Facebook, Twitter, Buzzfeed and Gawker will become more mainstream, and will require some standardization likely by the end of the 2013 as publisher demand for 'banner-less' ad technology proliferates."

Final Take
Rimma Kats is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York