Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and even in the case of premium advertising, that still rings true. What really makes advertising "premium"? Is it the creative experience? The context? The data and targeting? The way consumers engage? And how is this different across desktop and mobile? Ultimately, it all depends on how you see it.
This was the topic debated at the May 16 Modern Marketing Summit Upfront, where digital marketing veteran Sarah Fay moderated a panel discussion among digital leaders Eric Litman, SVP-mobile worldwide at GroupM; Harry Kargman, founder and CEO of Kargo; Jeremy Sigel, global director for partnerships and emerging media at Essence; and Raymonde Brillantes-Green, VP-partnerships and investments for DigitasLBi.
With Internet ad revenue reaching a new high in 2015, led by mobile as the biggest driver with 35% growth, the question of what is working in mobile and how brands can take advantage of the premium opportunities available to them was a key point of discussion.
So what is "premium"? Once relatively easy to define, today "premium" advertising can refer to anything from the quality of the publisher or the editorial environment to the quality of the ad itself, the audience, the data used, the consumer experience, the technology or format, or some combination of these.
On the panel, Mr. Kargman defined "premium" as advertising that is contextually interesting and relevant and appears in great editorial environments. He pointed out that premium goes beyond the advertising—what is also important is the consumer mindset.
"We conducted a study that shows that people tend to scroll through social environments at about 250 pixels per second versus about 50 pixels per second in editorial environments—arguably making those environments more 'premium' because users are in the right mindset to stop and look at content, including ads," Mr. Kargman said. He added that if you took the same environment and ran a run-of-the-mill banner ad for something not contextually relevant, you would wind up with a non-premium experience.
For Mr. Brilliantes-Green, "premium" hinges mainly on the way that mobile ads are presented: "We need to be careful that it's not disruptive or an overall bad experience for the consumer," he said. "The challenge we face in mobile in particular because of the smaller screen size is overcoming our natural tendency to make ads bigger and take over the entire screen."
One of the challenges of building premium experiences in mobile today, according to the panelists, is that mobile is included too late in the creative process. Mr. Litman cited the industry's failure to consider newer platforms and environments such as mobile early enough: "I've seen mobile campaigns," Mr. Litman said, "that either were never executed or were executed poorly because the thinking needed around newer platforms and environments [like mobile] was considered secondary in the creative briefing process."
The solution? Mr. Litman said he believes that video ultimately will be the great equalizer: "The trend in mobile certainly is, at least from our side, to move more dollars into video than into banner formats." But the question of how to better align mobile to the creative process, including understanding the consumer, the creative opportunities and the technical requirements remains to be seen.
Of course that's not the only challenge—marketers also have to remember that there's a living, breathing human being on the other end of all the tools and technology they're wielding and must strike a balance between contextually relevant and "creepy." As Mr. Green pointed out, this is a very fine line. "One of the things that scares me [about mobile] is the possibility of overusing or abusing the data that we have," he said. "When you start to marry time data with my location plus some other second- or third-party data that I'm probably not aware that you have, then that sort of targeting becomes creepy." The panelists agreed that this is one scenario likely to be driving increased use of ad blockers, for example.
"You don't want to be spooky or crazy," Mr. Sigel said. "In reality, this is the advantage that mobile has over other mediums—that type of personalization—and in many cases consumers who are upset by the irrelevant ads they see are reacting this way because they know how much data companies collect about them, and they expect more personalization and relevancy as a result."
Looking to the Future
The session ended on a high note, with panelists discussing what the future of mobile advertising will look like. As Mr. Kargman pointed out, "That is the evolution of how 30-second advertising starts to look and feel on a device where you probably don't want audio because it's going to annoy you, you don't want to wait 30 seconds to get the messaging all the way through, and you really want an experience that is fully vertical, filling your entire screen, and that gives you all the messaging of the 30-second ad in an 8-to-10-second video spot with midcards that replace auto-play audio."
While there has been a lot of progress in the mobile space, there are still a number of challenges that the industry must overcome. Said Mr. Sigel, "Brands, for example, will need to accept that their creative agency may not produce mobile-first creative, giving the technical agencies more power to create those experiences. The past five or 10 years may have seemed like a crazy time for mobile advertising, but clearly this is an area that continues to evolve—not just in terms of dollars allocated, but in the way that brands and agencies and even internal teams work together."
About the Sponsor
Kargo is the leader in mobile brand advertising, combining creativity, technology and quality to empower advertisers to break convention and build meaningful connections with consumers on the most important screen in their lives: mobile. Kargo's high-end editorial alliance of world-class publishers, proprietary advertising automation technology and award-winning creative studio helps brands reach eight out of 10 U.S. smartphone users with memorable, measurable mobile ad experiences. In 2015, Kargo was recognized by Crain's New York Business as one of the 50 fastest-growing companies in New York and by Inc. magazine as one of the 500 fastest-growing companies in the U.S.