We've read about how the pipes in mobile advertising are broken, thanks to device fragmentation, interoperability issues, ad serving and tracking challenges, lack of scale and, yes, too many startups. As one of the many mobile advertising startups called out Ad Age 's story on the topic, we'll admit that there are still challenges ahead.
But I think the pipes are more clogged than broken. Issues exist, without a doubt, but all the stakeholders are working them out and here's how.
One agency exec quoted in the story said a big mobile ad buy would be "daunting." So let's look at each of the factors that might clog up a $30 million mobile ad buy:
There are many different phones and operating systems, but mobile standardization has come a long way. Let's look for a moment at what advertisers care about most in mobile -- Apple and Android devices. The technological issues around delivering creative to these devices are being resolved, and the two platforms cover more than 70% of the mobile ad market today and for the foreseeable future.
Even online display advertising has been struggling for a long time to get ads to work consistently on various websites and browsers; it's something a standard ad creative tool kit would have fixed. This time around, mobile got it right, while also adding a dozen more features suited to mobile apps. The Interactive Advertising Bureau has set specific mobile rich media standards that theindustry is beginning to adopt.
We're also starting to overcome hurdles in measuring creative between all the different rich media vendors. Mobile ad creative deployed on a wide variety of smart phones are now HTML5. This includes those from iAd, Crisp Media—my company--Celtra and just about every other mobile rich media ad out there. Many of these vendors, publishers and ad networks are working together on initiatives to set standards. My company Crisp, with The Weather Channel, Jumptap, and PointRoll founded Open Rich Media Mobile Advertising (ORMMA) to set standards to allow advertisers to run and measure the same campaigns across devices, platforms, networks and publishers. Since, more than 20 other mobile ad companies have joined us.
Let's turn our attention now to measurement – Ad Age called mobile ad measurement "broken" and commenter on the story debated going beyond the online ad standby click-through rate (CTR) for measuring performance. Let's not forget that CTRs have already proven to be completely inadequate as a measure of campaign performance and improved engagement, but post-click metrics address this issue. Organizations such as ORMMA are working to make it possible to measure cross-campaign engagement metrics across devices, platforms, publishers and networks.
Lack of scale
We often hear agencies talk about the difficulties involved with finding a large enough audience to easily put together a major mobile ad buy, but the truth is most agencies are still buying from individual ad networks that aggregate inventory in the long-tail of apps. But with 100 million mobile web users and 17 billion mobile app downloads, the audience and inventory is out there.
If brands looked more closely at the best performing inventory it would undoubtedly help place mobile where it belongs -- at the top of any media plan. Challenges certainly still exist in mobile, but the priority for organizations like the Mobile Marketing Association, IAB and ORMMA is to clean out those clogged pipes and push through standards and education that will get mobile ad buying flowing quickly.
And, by the way, anyone who thinks there are too many startups in the mobile advertising space might want to take a look at the online advertising landscape.