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SxSW 2014: What makes a great mobile ad?

sxsw mobile ads
From left to right: Drew Neisser, Rob Griffin, Webster Lewin

AUSTIN, Texas – Mobile advertisements. They’re in our favorite free applications and games, and an everyday part of life for every mobile consumer. Yet, do we really pay much attention to their form or function? Industry experts from Havas Media, Starcom MediaVest and Renegade sat down at South by Southwest 2014 for a panel titled, “The best mobile campaigns you haven’t seen,” to discuss what makes a really great mobile ad.

Drew Neisser, CEO of Renegade, started things off by comparing mobile ads to a toilet. The audience chuckled in surprise, and he went on to explain that usually both are in our lives every day, they’re not that pretty and we don’t put much thought into them. A matter of function over form. That’s why when a mobile ad is good, he argues that it really stands out.

Rob Griffin, EVP and global director of product development for Havas Media, gave the first example: a Nissan Facebook campaign. The goal was both to encourage Nissan customers to sign up for scheduled maintenance with a local dealer, but also to enter a sweepstakes to win a free car. The key to success with this campaign was that users could interact with every aspect of the campaign directly from their news feed in the Facebook mobile app. There was no risk of churn because users stayed in the Facebook app. Thanks to this integrated design, Nissan saw ad campaign interactions rise by 91%. Griffin also cited Ford’s text-message campaign, joking that text-messaging was the dirty word of the mobile industry, but if used correctly it is an effective tool for reaching and interacting with audiences. The importance of geo-targeting was exemplified in a Columbia jacket campaign.

Webster Lewin, SVP and director of mobility for Starcom MediaVest Group, pointed to Motorola’s MotoX campaign on Mashable as a key example of effective mobile marketing. The ad had a responsive design, where users could click on different colors and style options within the ad to design the MotoX phone of their choice, and once the user had certain amount of time invested in the ad, then they were taken to Motorola’s site to complete the transaction. The ad was responsive not only in computer
Web browsers, but more importantly were designed to be just as responsive in tablet and mobile phone browsers, which Lewin thinks is the most important aspect. “We have to move mobile to the center; that’s where all the eyeballs are,” he said.

Games as ads were also a sign of good mobile advertising, according to Lewin. For this type of ad he chose Geico’s Money Badger game, which is a simple “whack-a-mole” style tap game for mobile devices branded with Geico logos on various objects in the game world. While this type isn’t functional in the sense that it helps you interact with Geico’s insurance products, it does add value to the brand as one that is fun and matches the style of humor in their TV commercials, which builds continued goodwill towards the brand, which Lewin emphasized is always a positive thing. “Advertisers need to create value that lives on beyond the ad,” he said

After these examples, the broader topic of “what is mobile?” was discussed at length. Griffin pointed to a person in the lecture hall on a laptop and said, “isn’t what you’re doing right now mobile?” The audience gave a general nod of agreement and Griffin retorted, “ah, but trackers like Google Analytics don’t consider it so, and yet when I’m on my phone, sitting around the house, that’s considered mobile when it is clearly not.” He challenged analytics trackers and mobile ad “crafters” to design better ways to recognize when users where on mobile yet at home for even more customized campaigns.

Neisser ended the discussion by stating that mobile has become the mainstream and when we talk about digital technology, mobile is understood. He envisions a future where mobile is so integrated into every aspect of technology it’s just understood as part of the conversation. “In a few years, mobile won’t be a separate topic at South by Southwest,” he said.

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Jarad Matula
Jarad Matula
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