Mobile Marketers to Brands: Less Is More

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Marketers specializing in mobile no longer have to fight for scraps: mobile has become a part of client budgets. Now, it needs to get much better.

That was the consensus from the opening panel for a day-long industry conference, organized by IAB, Facebook and Nasdaq at the Mobile World Congress. Media executives offered common critiques of mobile ads -- dull banner ads, shoddy creative and inadequate metrics. But they also suggested the format was shifting from interruptive ads to more contextual campaigns, such as those that incorporate data from connected devices -- and that's what they'd like to see more of.

"In our industry, we mistakenly think that every place is a place to put an ad," Mike Parker, global chief digital officer, McCann Worldwide, said on stage. He mentioned messaging apps, which draw increasingly more consumer attention, as an example. "Not every place is a good place to connect. You need to understand the consumer journey."

Thomas Fellger, CEO of Inconmobile, opened the morning sessions with an example: a campaign from Oral-B that used a richly-designed app, rather than a promotional effort, to encourage kids to brush their teeth. Worth noting, later the agency panelists argued it is futile for most brands to build mobile-apps.

Randall Rothenberg, president and CEO of IAB, said mobile advertisers need to move beyond the debate between direct-response and branding, getting closer to an approach akin to research and design operations. "The ad -- the media product -- becomes an initial step in this continuous cycle of innovation," he told Ad Age.

Even the industry's favorite jargon -- "mobile-first" -- was maligned. "It's one of the most overused media terms today. Everyone says it, but they don't know how to define it," said Erin Kienast, director of mobility at SMG. "There's a natural reaction to pump dollars into mobile, but there's a smarter way to approach it."

When asked about how that approach looks creatively on small screens, she admitted: "I'm still trying to figure that out."

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