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Three considerations for humanizing mobile ads

By Scott Forshay / April 16, 2013

The connected consumer has little patience for clutter or noise. The device is the compass with which we engage the world, the persistent interface that guides us through an ever-evolving digital landscape. How then do marketers evolve in order to not only keep pace with the mobile revolution, but also to utilize it as intended?

The smartphone is intensely personal, intimately integrated into our social graphs, superior in its contextual awareness of time and space, hyper-connected and nearly always within arm’s reach. The smartphone has, in essence, become a very natural extension of our human selves.

Yet, despite the newfound wealth of opportunities available to mobile marketers, we’ve been consistently and fundamentally flawed in both strategy and execution. The opportunity lost at the intersection of mobility and digital marketing is a failure of flawed prioritization and fascination with shiny objects. Simply put, we’ve been doing it all wrong.

How do we address a fundamental, user-driven shift from a reach and frequency-driven ads models to one focused on user experience-centricity? The fundamental question is, how do we make mobile advertising more human?

Stop insulting the audience

Effective consumer engagement can no longer assume a one-size-fits-all, spray-and-pray mindset. The connected consumer is constantly barraged with a dizzyingly irrelevant and intrusive array of branded digital touchpoints.

The first step in the humanization of mobile advertising involves integrating the brand into the daily experiences of the mobile user by being additive, not intrusive. It’s not enough to simply know where your audience is and present the same brand messaging.

For example, if a coffee brand chooses to run an ad on a weather app where high audience volume exists during peak morning hours, the call to action when selected should include GPS coordinate recognition for store location, a redeemable promotional offer, and potentially add local traffic or public transportation information based on location.

Stop marketing at people, start marketing to context

The mobility user experience is the primary consideration and that experience is, by its nature, transitional. The success or failure of any future mobility marketing effort will be defined in the execution of strategies focused on addressing user transitions – the transitions from medium to medium, dialogue to dialogue, and from context to context.

Brands must move beyond simply marketing at people, and instead, must master marketing to a context that is determined by device or platform. They must consider the specific medium with which they choose to engage and execute experiences that accentuate its differentiated elements.

Accessibility is the foundational concern addressed by mobile sites, tablet apps and optimized campaign microsites, but the key to successful transitional marketing is anticipation. Anticipating that a consumer is on her tablet device when your commercial airs. Anticipating that the needs of consumers before 8:00 a.m. and after 5 p.m. are more time sensitive and experiential in nature.

Accessibility requires an understanding of connectivity and content. Anticipation requires an understanding of character and context.

Provide value in exchange for value

Regardless of the strategies or technologies employed, successful mobile marketing relies heavily on a fair and evenly balanced value exchange between consumer and brand. Given the intensely personal nature of smart devices, coupled with the fact that the device is nearly always within arm’s reach, it becomes extremely important that mobile marketing avoids being intrusive and irrelevant.

A mobile ad unit that directs the consumer to an optimized landing page or microsite featuring content or product exclusive to the ad engages the audience with exclusivity. Tactics such as these create a successful value exchange whereby an attention commitment is made by the consumer in exchange for priority access to the brand and the reward associated with exclusive ownership.

It’s important to remember that experience is not a product of technology – it’s a product of emotion. From positive emotions come connections, and from connections come relationships. And isn’t building relationships with consumers the end goal anyway?