4 Major Trends in Mobile Advertising

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  • November 12, 2015
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If you’re like me, you probably don’t go anywhere without your mobile phone. Don’t be afraid to admit it, you’re definitely not alone! Studies show that one in every five people in the world owns a smartphone. That’s over 22% of the world’s population! Combine that with the fact that we can’t go more than 6 minutes without checking our phones, it’s no wonder mobile marketing spend is predicted to hit $65 billion by 2019, in the United States alone.

The rise of digital mobile media is redefining how we shop, dine, travel, read, are entertained, and much more. In fact, today’s generation is more likely to watch the latest Youtube video than sit in front of the television and watch the nightly news at 6 (ReelSEO). Why the huge shift to mobile? Chase Mohney, Client Partner at Facebook, recently explained at ad:tech New York that it comes down to trust. People are trusting mobile more in 2015 which is why they are heavily relying on this device throughout their daily routine.

With this shift, advertisers are changing the way they serve ads to us – the consumer. Since mobile is becoming the device of choice for consumers (vs. TV or desktop), the mobile screen is taking priority in advertisers’ digital strategies as well (or it should). However, advertisers also need to keep in mind that the way consumers interact with mobile is fundamentally different than the way they interact with other platforms. Over the past year, this has become evident as major brands have adopted mobile specific trends into their strategy to attract and engage audiences in innovative ways.

As you prepare for your 2016 online marketing campaigns, let’s take a look at 4 major mobile advertising trends of 2015 and why you may want to consider them in your upcoming strategy.

1. The Rise of Mobile Programmatic

Forecasts predict that U.S. mobile programmatic ad spending alone will reach $9.33 billion this year and account for approximately 60% of total U.S. programmatic display ad spending (Marketingland). There is a shift occurring among digital media buyers not only towards mobile, but also towards mobile programmatic and for good reason.
Programmatic allows for massive increases in cost and time effectiveness when it comes to optimization based on behavioral data – desktop focused programmatic campaigns demonstrate this. Considering how much time consumers now spend on their mobile devices, and the range of activities executed on mobile from shopping to watching shows, social media participation and more, it only makes sense that behavioral data also be collected on mobile. Hence, with mobile programmatic digital media buyers will ideally be able to target their mobile audiences in a much more sophisticated and segmented manner.


How specific can targeting get? Well, in addition to geo-targeting, advertisers can now target consumers “based on where they are in a store” to completely tailor the ad impression with the real-life context of a shopper. The second a consumer walks into the shoe department, imagine being able to target them with in-the-moment relevant ads. This high level of relevancy is beneficial to both consumer and advertiser as the experience of the ad is specified to the needs of the consumer in that very moment and therefore less intrusive, potentially leading to immediate positive results.

Moreover, with social, video and native ads intertwined with mobile, the importance for mobile programmatic is growing. Facebook also plays a key role in mobile programmatic growth with revenue alone expected to total $5 billion. Mobile programmatic will therefore have a critical role in improving the ways in which marketers connect with increasingly digitally savvy consumers.

2. Storytelling through mobile video ads

The first trend is the rise in mobile video ads. Advertisers are reaching audiences through a medium that they already consume. Given that advertisers can target and measure mobile video ads with growing accuracy, more and more brands are jumping on board (Spotxchange). In fact, this trend is growing so rapidly that mobile ad revenue is predicted to grow almost five-times faster than desktop (Business Insider).

So what can advertisers achieve through mobile video ads? Brand building. Mobile video ads afford the opportunity to tell a story for a longer period of time than a still image. Data actually shows that mobile consumers prefer long videos over short videos. In a recent Interactive Advertising Bureau study, that surveyed respondents from over 24 countries, 36% of respondents revealed they watch videos that are 5 minutes or longer on their phones every day. In a world where consumers are constantly bombarded with ads, this is a HUGE opportunity for brands to not only interact but hold the attention of consumers for more than 5 seconds.

Brands like Wrigley’s Extra gum prove that mobile video ads are an incredible opportunity to reel in an audience with an impactful piece that leaves them remembering the epic storyline told by a brand. Their recent ad, telling the love story of Sarah & Juan, through Extra gum wrappers and well known song ‘I Can’t Help Falling in Love’, certainly achieved this.

Within one week of airing, the ad earned over 7 million YouTube views, more than 78 million Facebook views and over 1.1 million shares. For those who’ve seen the ad it quickly becomes evident why it garnered so much success. (If you haven’t seen the ad yet, I would highly recommend it, but you might need a box of tissues close by). The product being advertised, Wrigley’s Extra gum, is simply a prop in the grand love story being told. Through the emotionally compelling story, audiences remember and associate the story with the brand and then socially share enabling massive brand exposure to viewers. And let’s face it, in the digital age, nothing says success like a video gone viral.

So for brands looking to capture attention through mobile video ads, remember that consumers are willing to watch a longer format videos but you need to be telling a story that compels them to stay tuned.

3. Connecting with consumers through social media influencers

These days, social media influencers are everywhere. Who are social media influencers? They’re internet celebrities that have developed large followings, and who are capable of persuading their loyal fans through the content they post. Online influencers is a burgeoning sub-field of affiliate marketing. In the past, brands relied solely on celebrity endorsements for this type of influential content. However with the proliferation of social media and blogs, brands are targeting smaller social media accounts and blogs as well. While celebrities are still strong social media influencers (as you’ll see below), using the everyday influencer gives advertisers access to highly specific niches like young moms or fitness junkies.

Social media influencers and affiliates have become such a popular way for marketers to reach audiences that they are paying up to five figures for one snap, photo, tweet or video. This may seem like a lot, but these influencers are well versed in popular social platforms, they have a trustworthy audience and your post is almost guaranteed to be seen by their followers. Factors that are not always guaranteed in other channels. Let’s take a look at some examples.

For brands trying to target Generation Z, a highly digitally active generation, partnering with influencers can pop you directly into your target market (ad:tech New York). Well known Snapchat user, Shonduras (Shaun McBride), is an example of an influencer that has worked with major brands like Marriott Hotels, Disney, AT&T and Samsung to market their brands to his audience of more than 150k (AdAge).


McBride’s approach is to promote brands by being true to himself. This allows for the ‘branded content’ to come off as authentic instead of ‘try this brand with this awesome coupon/discount//deal I have for you’. This is key for a lot of Gen Z influencers as they don’t want to come across as a sales person.

As I mentioned, advertisers still look to celebrities to become influencers of their brands. Let’s look at the Kardashian family for example. We’ve seen almost all the sisters take pictures, highlighting their famous figures, with a waist-cinching contraption called a Premadonna Waist Trainer. This figure shaping product, from Waist Gang Society, a formerly unknown online business, exploded in growth when images of the Kardashians sporting them, were posted to their social media feeds. With over 540k followers on Instagram and 21.7k followers on Twitter, the company’s growth continues as the Kardashians remain key influencers for this brand.

The rise of social media influencers creates a world of possibilities. It opens up a new channel for brands to connect with consumers directly, more organically and at scale. So, for brands looking to reach out to social media influencers, it’s important to remember that their audiences trust them and the content needs to come across as genuine. So find an influencer that has a brand image in line with yours and then have them produce content that shares your products in an authentic way.

4. Extending brand presence through mobile apps

Creating a branded app is becoming a popular way for brands to extend their interaction with customers beyond social media and mobile-friendly websites. With the recent Mobilegeddon update, it’s crucial for brands to make their online content mobile friendly. Having an app is one way to create a unique, enjoyable experience between your customers and your brand. Since the app is often an extension of other digital properties, brands can easily cross-promote content and even drive mobile shopping conversions.

Although mobile apps for gaming, banking, picture taking etc. have been around for a while, we are seeing an increasing amount of brands create apps specifically for sharing and exchanging marketable content with users. The growth is attributed to audiences wanting access to the exclusive content only made available through these apps (Forbes). It’s even common to see brands produce a main mobile app for essential information and then secondary apps that create a more intimate, engaging experience for users to connect with the brand.

An example of a brand leveraging mobile apps to connect with audiences is McDonald’s. They have a main brand app, where users can access the menu and other company information, but they’ve also created a secondary app called ‘Fry Defender’ which is a mobile alarm system for fries.

Fry defender

The app uses your phone’s built-in camera to take photographs of anyone suspected of stealing your beloved fries. McDonald’s admitted that the campaign is mostly an opportunity to produce shareable content as users can capture the fry thief and share the image on their social media accounts. It’s a smart marketing move as it gives McDonald’s tons of brand advocates sharing branded images socially AND user-generated content to use on their own social channels. Win-win.

Another example of mobile apps being used to expand brand presence is once again, the Kardashian sisters. Hey, whether you love them or hate them, there’s no doubt they have a strong digital presence! The success of Kim Kardashian’s mobile game led to the launch of individual apps by each sister; Kim, Kourtney, Khloe, Kendall and Kylie. The content shared on these apps have a wide variety of formats including exclusive vlogs, images and articles not shared anywhere else. Each sister shares content that is catered to their personality. For example, Kim shares fashion content, Khloe focuses on fitness and Kourtney on mom-friendly advice.

kardashian(Source: Mashable)

The, dare we say, kustomized Kardashian apps give the sisters’ the opportunity to engage with audiences on a more intimate level and also extend their already massive followings on social media. Since launching the apps, the Kardashians have used their social media accounts to promote content from their apps, enticing followers to download for more exclusive content.

For brands looking to dominate in the mobile world, remember that apps can be a great way to extend brand presence, cross-promote content, encourage user generated content and evoke audience engagement.

It’s been a huge year for mobile and there’s been no shortage of creativity coming from brands that are leveraging this channel to engage consumers. For advertisers, optimizing in mobile should be an obvious choice as consumers live in this space. The question is, how can you stand out from competition and build unique campaigns that capture audience attention but drive conversions as well?

Monique Gabat

Monique Gabat

Monique Gabat is part of the Marketing team at WhatRunsWhere, the premium tool for competitive intelligence data. She is also dedicated to providing exceptional service to WhatRunsWhere clients as Customer Support Specialist. When she's not helping customers or researching the latest digital trends, she can be found blogging about the latest food trends in Toronto.

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