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Recapping Key Themes from Mobile Media Summit 2013

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“2013 is the year of mobile.” A lot of people said that about 2012 – and 2011, too. In fact, it seems as though it’s been “the year of mobile” for quite some time.

While other mediums like video and social have led to clear-cut changes in the digital space, mobile remains highly complex and oft-debated when it comes to how to buy and evaluate it. At this week’s Mobile Media Summit, industry leaders converged to discuss the future of mobile media. This post recaps some of the key themes that emerged during the conference.

Making Native Work for Mobile

Native advertising is an effective way to buy mobile as part of a broader advertising strategy. Since mobile devices are much smaller than the standard PC, it’s impossible to take a banner designed for a bigger unit and expect it to translate. Publishers have taken note, and in response are building out more custom solutions to allow for both better advertiser and user experiences.

Partnering with apps and integrating into mobile environments is a strong way to make advertising resonate. For example, Meredith Kopit Levein, EVP of Advertising at the New York Times, spoke at the event about how Citi Bike integrated with the NYT’s “The Scoop” app to allow users to find Citi Bike locations around recommended New York sites.

Location, Location, Location

Location – and more specifically, where users are consuming mobile – should also be a strong consideration. People aren’t just using mobile on-the-go. They are using it at work and at home, as well. It’s important for advertisers to have a deeper understanding of their target consumer and understand how they behave throughout the day, as timeliness and relevance are crucial when it comes to mobile messaging. Having a banner ad advertising a coffee special that runs all day is far less effective than a custom interstitial that runs on a news publication during the morning window. Mobile vendors offer specific targeting techniques that can make such executions possible.

Mobile as a Personal Medium

Mobile should also be thought of as a highly personal medium. Mobile devices serve as people’s constant companions and guides to everyday life – always at the tip of their fingers to provide information and entertainment. Becoming a natural part of that experience is critical to developing a successful mobile campaign. While direct conversions and response may not come through a mobile device, mobile should be thought of as a bigger part of the marketing mix that can help enforce and/or compliment overall brand messaging.

Measurement Challenges Continue

While the mobile space has evolved in some aspects, there are some areas that have remained stagnant. For example, advertisers still lack a simple solution for measurement. This was evidenced in the “Turning Mobile ROI into Reality panel, which centered more on the importance of mobile in general vs. assigning any metrics to it. It’s tough to argue high mobile usage rates, but justifying the shift of dollars from desktop – where tracking and measurement are standardized – to mobile continues to pose a challenge for many in the advertising community.

User Experience Remains a Work in Progress

Overall, the standard mobile user experience still isn’t as clean as it could be. The smaller device naturally makes it more difficult for users to navigate and interact with content. As a result, many publishers are making the switch to responsive design, though some sites still lack a consistently clean experience across devices. USA Today is an example of a publisher that has made continuous updates in order to appeal to their on-the-go, travel focused consumer.

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While there remain some issues when it comes to buying mobile, it’s exciting to see the space evolve as more advertisers and publishers take interest in it. And the statistics are promising for mobile enthusiasts: people continue to consume more and more information via their mobile devices.

Given this trend, marketers are wise to make mobile a growing part of their advertising mix. The best way to approach the medium is to be strategic with mobile ad buys, and to avoid treating mobile as a ‘channel’ for standard creative. Take the time to understand your audience and how they consume mobile, and then customize the plan accordingly.

Cover photo via PixUnlimited