Mobile Video’s Obstacles are Not Only Being Overcome, But are Turning into Advantages for Advertisers


Alex RahamanMobile video has confronted advertisers with an array of challenges, many of which are rooted in the practice of taking a 30 second TV spot and trying to shoehorn it into mobile where both the user behaviour and the technological options available to advertisers are both very different. Here Alex Rahaman, VP Programmatic of StrikeAd at Sizmek, explains how things that were once regarded as challenges for mobile advertisers, are now turning into opportunities that savvy advertisers can use to their advantage.

With mobile video ad spend increasing almost 100% in the UK last year you’d be forgiven for thinking the ad industry had finally cracked mobile, but this is far from the case.

Although advertisers are flocking to mobile video due to its ability to increase brand awareness, enhance brand favourability, and reach highly targeted audiences, there are still obstacles that need to be overcome before mobile video can reach its full potential.    

So what are some of the key challenges facing mobile video and how can advertisers turn the tables and use these to their advantage?

Challenge 1: Advertising in the in-app environment

Advertisers can choose whether to run their video ads on mobile web or in-app but with around 90% of mobile time spent in-app, failing to advertise in this environment is clearly a missed opportunity.

While in-app video advertising is very powerful at driving action online and offline – with YouTube research suggesting 30 percent of smartphone users who visit an app buy something from a physical store within 24 hours – its impact is difficult to track as the traditional cookie is not effective. Advertisers should use this situation to change their approach to attribution, adopting a cross-screen targeting and measurement strategy capable of matching devices to users where cookies are not supported and achieving a complete picture of the multi-device consumer journey.

There is also a lack of consensus over ad metrics for in-app advertising, particularly with viewability, with some providers counting every ad served in-app as viewable, even if the app was running in the background. There is progress in this area, however, with the Media Rating Council (MRC) expanding its video viewability guidelines to include in-app advertising.

Despite its challenges, in-app video advertising presents a significant opportunity to reach highly engaged users. Advertisers can leverage apps that are relevant to their brand and suited to their messaging to reach an attentive, captive audience with video players specifically designed for the in-app environment.

Challenge 2: Shorter consumer attention spans

Shorter consumer attention spans were identified as the biggest challenge to mobile video advertising in the US and the story is no different on this side of the Atlantic. Mobile devices themselves seem to be the root of the problem as the use of smartphones has apparently reduced the average consumer attention span to just eight seconds.

This trend may be a challenge for advertisers serving up 30-second TV style commercials, but can be seen as an opportunity for those embracing shorter video ads such as YouTube’s six second non-skippable Bumper Ads, which are chiefly aimed at mobile users.

To make the most of mobile video advertising, brands should consider a range of ad lengths that work for their messaging goals and target audience. IAB research indicates shorter videos engage younger age groups and have better brand appeal, while longer video ads appeal to the more mature consumer and are effective for conveying new or complex information.

Challenge 3: Creating video ads for vertical viewing

Videos are traditionally filmed horizontally, but this conflicts with the preferred viewing angle of smartphone users, which is vertical. As a result advertisers must adapt their video creative, either by shooting vertically or editing traditional horizontal footage, to ensure maximum impact without users having to rotate their devices.

Producing vertical videos specifically for mobile campaigns might sound like hard work but according to Facebook, which has just launched vertical video ads, this format improves user engagement – increasing watch time and making it more likely the video will be viewed with sound.

Challenge 4: Making video ads interactive

The ability to leverage smartphone functionalities and allow users to interact with creative is one of the greatest benefits of mobile advertising, including mobile video.

Gamification is a particularly significant aspect of consumer interaction – just look at the popularity of Pokémon Go – and game ads are likely to be the next evolution of mobile video advertising, fully immersing the user in the brand experience. Interactive video ads are complex to create but by leveraging technologies that allow them to build HTML5 VPAID omni-screen video experiences, advertisers can make the most of the interactive nature of mobile to instantly connect with their audiences.   

Mobile video advertising is not without its challenges, from running ads in the in-app environment and tracking impact across the customer journey to adapting creative to be interactive, vertical, and appealing to decreasing attention spans. But with the right tools and technologies, advertisers can turn these obstacles into advantages and reap the rewards of mobile video.


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