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Thoughts on banner ads for brands going mobile

August 16, 2013

Ariff Quli is senior vice president of sales at Vibrant Media

By Ariff Quli

I have heard countless discussions lately at conferences with media executives saying, “We’re ready to get going on mobile.” But the next sentence goes something like this: “Except we don’t really know what it is.”

We have a problem: nobody knows what on earth going mobile even means. Even more important – going mobile ¬in the way we have thought of it over the last few years is not the best way to approach the space anymore.

We are in this spot because brand marketers have been sold a bill of goods over the last half-decade. They were led to believe that taking the banner advertisements that barely work on desktop browsers and shifting them to work on mobile browsers will be the most effective way to reach consumers on mobile. Those who advised brands and agencies that this would be the best approach are now proved wrong.

As an industry, we cannot afford to be viewed as living in the Wild West any longer.

Starring role
Brands – your story has been hijacked, and the time has come to take that story back. You can no longer afford to rely on cheap, ineffective banner ads. We need to create premium, high-impact advertising experiences that help tell a story in a compelling way, instead of hoping someone clicks on a banner.
And I believe agencies are beginning to realize that the power of mobile lies in premium advertising experiences.
Jesse Missad, director of connected platforms for mobility and device at PHD, believes this is the future as well.
“While a marketer could enter the mobile space with basic banner ads at cheap CPMs, more emphasis should be put into premium executions,” Mr. Missad said. “I believe they will deliver a more impactful experience for both the brand marketer and the consumer.”
It is a problem that the IAB Rising Star units are looking to solve. And there is no question that they have done a great job.

We recently did a study with the IAB that showed users were nearly twice as likely to interact with an IAB Mobile Rising Star ad and 9 seconds quicker to engage with the ad compared to a mobile banner ad.

Branding results and user perceptions confirm the impact.

When users interacted with Mobile Rising Star ads they were far more likely to recall the brand advertised (+18 percent), recall the ad message (+23 percent) and were 43 percent more likely to rate the ads “attention grabbing” and 38 percent more likely to say they were “enjoyable/fun” compared to those who viewed a standard mobile banner ad for the same Oreo brand campaign.

But these units only account for roughly 10 percent of all inventory sold – the rest is still spent on banner ads.

So what is the problem? You guessed it – scale.

Flying the banner
For whatever reason, 70 percent of content online is still not mobile optimized. But here is the good news: there remains a tremendous opportunity for brand marketers to tell their story across platforms through ad units that are viewable across devices.

The industry as a whole needs to come together to create versions of brand stories that are more meaningful and personal. It is imperative we create advertising experiences on mobile that are less a surprise intrusion and more a delight. Simply put – we need to be useful.

One only has to take a look at survey results issued by the IAB, comScore and our company to realize that excellent mobile advertising delivers results.

According to the survey, the IAB’s Mobile Rising Star units, which take full advantage of the mobile canvas, generated nearly twice the number of people to interact with the ads (swiping, sliding or tapping) than standard banners.

When users were delivered both types of ad formats on a mobile device, one in 10 (9.3 percent) respondents interacted with the Mobile Rising Stars ad, a sharp contrast to the 5.2 percent that interacted with the traditional banner.

Is there room for both banners and premium advertising experiences on mobile? Perhaps, but I would argue that if we deliver these premium advertising experiences in effective ways that prove user engagement, we will see these solutions scale naturally. We will be targeting more effectively and, ultimately, reaching consumers who want to be reached.

The opportunity is here. Brands are excited, but they still do not know what mobile means. The time has come to show them premium brand advertising can exist across devices. And we must move quickly – our entire industry is at stake, and the opportunities are there for the taking.

So what are some tips for going mobile? Here are a few:

1. Stay away from standard banner ads.
2. Try new premium ad experiences.
3. Monitor and analyze user engagement so that premium experiences scale quickly.

Ariff Quli is senior vice president of sales at Vibrant Media, New York. Reach him at

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