How to make wonderful mobile ads on the new audience networks

Mobile ads have always been a bit crap and everyone likes the idea that they might work because everyone has a phone and personalised data and measurability, it would all be so wonderful. 


The reality is that trying to do something amazing on a 50px postage stamp with screens that change size all the time and the whole Steve Jobs anti-Flash Apple thing has resulted in some pretty terrible mobile ads. Have you seen people at a conference stand up and present on how amazing their Leaderboard ads are? No. Because they are crap and nobody cares. 

this blog post is also wonderful- $236 on candy crush

Then, some smarty brains people like King (makers of Candy Crush) bolted ahead of everyone else and sold imaginary wands and extra lives to people in a game where you bop little coloured balls and everyone went nuts for it and they made heaps of money. So then people realised that people can interact with things on little screens and not in Flash, you just have to think about it a bit differently. 

I know this all might sound a bit basic to some of you but I kid you not, I went to a catalogue launch for an AU/NZ retailer and the whole thing was in Flash. Someone at their expensive agency probably took the print pdfs and went into Adobe InDesign File>Export>Flash Player SWF, yep that’s all they had done and that sort of thing really annoys me so the more you can understand and question the approach, the better result you’ll get. 

So users wanted rich designs that made the most of their zillion dollar mobile phone screens like they saw in games and responsive design and HTML5 meant that that could happen which is great and sort of where we are today. 

Publishers and ad tech companies are cranking out lots of new mobile ad formats that are more responsive -change to suit what device the user is viewing on -Boston Globe is an example that Adobe often use so grab your neighbours phone and watch the copy and ads moving around as it adjusts to the device. If you all work for the same company and have the same phone then have a play with some online emulators like Mobile Test and Mobile Phone Emulator

Facebook claim to have nailed some new formats that have started serving through their Atlas network. I tried to get a new fancy ad come up on Shazam but all I got was this old-school Leaderboard that isn't worth talking about at a conference but the one they have in their post is quite cool and I’ll just keep tagging songs until I get it. 


In saying that, the audience generation part might be interesting because it’s meant to be serving ads off what books I’ve read in Facebook— ‘Atlas, send her the boring version of the Vodafone ad’

nope -wonderful song though

Google Admob network have also released some new formats that seem heavily influenced by YouTube’s successful TrueView format where a little video trailer plays and advertisers only get charged when a user doesn’t hit the skip ad button. There are also some screen takeovers that mimic a print magazine ads so your designers will be happy about that. With the trend towards larger phone and tablet screens perhaps the whole digital magazine/catalogue thing might finally start kicking in with some decent revenues?

tiny wonderful videos

As evidenced by my boring Vodafone ad (sorry Vodafone but I am writing a blog post about it so tell your manager your ad was amplified and created conversations= earned media :)) and the success of mobile games apps we can see that Creative is a thing and using the formats properly is going to take some skills but I think a good place to start is to start paying attention to formats you like and copy them. Evernote web clipper is a useful browser tool you can use or just screenshot ads on your phone and look at sites like for ideas about how you could integrate ad formats better into your apps and mobile pages. 

I wouldn’t even worry too much about how much you are paying for mobile ads at the moment - I know that sounds a bit wrong but get the formats working properly and think more about what you could potentially do with them because it’s all going to be a bit made-up at the start until the formats settle down and the audiences improve through the networks. Have a go at a video trailer in app mobile ad thing and an in-app Facebook Atlas thing and in the very least, you’ll learn something and have a place to start improving from and it will all be wonderful. 

Hoodies up it's time for marketing tag management 101

Lots of little hoodie wearers are going to be visiting your marketing teams talking about ‘tagging’ so it’s probably a good idea to give yourself a crash course first so you don’t get confused panda about the whole thing. 

It's just really seeing 'did the customer come this way?'
Measurement and attribution has always been a pain with both online and offline conversions so companies want you to ‘tag’ up your sites so we can all see what’s going on and what paths customers are taking and where referrals have come from and that sort of thing. 

Web page tagging is a lot like graffiti tagging. Companies use their third party tag’ to show that users have visited somewhere. So companies like Facebook and Google want you to put their tags on your pages so they can show that customers visited your pages on their customer journey. Metrics and research providers like Kissmetrics and Nielsen also use tagging technology to measure who is doing what on a page. A tag is a snippet of code that goes in the html in the page.

"We have nerds that do that, I’m just the marketing person. I think we have all that anyway"

Tagging for mobile

Yes and this where it starts to get interesting and you do need to know this for yourself. You might have heard this week about Facebook launching something called Atlas for ad serving. When you think Atlas think mobile and think mobile video —those auto play videos that are turning up on your Facebook iPhone app.Central to Atlas are Facebook custom audiences. You create a Facebook custom audience by putting a ‘tag’ Facebook Custom audience pixel, on all  your pages. The current FBX ad serving stuff is limited to desktop inventory only. Custom Audiences from Your Website allows targeting across browsers, overlaying of Facebook data, access to mobile inventory, and usage of all Facebook ad units, all of which are not available on FBX. It's the thing that gets read and messed about with in Atlas so they want you to put it on all your things. You can read more about it here

Ok but what about if you don’t really use Facebook, why is this important?

The end game is to connect company data with Facebook data with customer data. The uses are wider than Facebook and the model is one being explored by lots of advertising companies so the more you understand it the better. 

For example, if you go to the supermarket and use a loyalty card, the supermarket has point of sale scan data linked to your personal data on the loyalty card. Using Atlas, the shopper’s data can be imported from a big enterprise database like Oracle and analysed to create highly targeted audiences back into Facebook and, ultimately across online and offline ad networks. Cookies aren't that great on mobile and advertisers want to get to user-level rather than session level measurement so you can imagine with mobile phones, getting down to an individual with a lot more context like geo-location becomes possible. 

WOAH. Yes woah and that’s why you need to try and understand as much of this as possible. 

Step 1 I would suggest is make sure Google Tag Manager (there are other tag managers but this one is free and there is a lot of info around on it to learn from) is managed from client side for your brand and that you can access it. Don’t let the tag management sit with an agency or outside your company if at all possible because you need the agility to manage your own tags.  Google Tag manager means that you can change the tags on your sites without having to get developer resource. Tags such as Facebook Custom audience pixel and Google analytics tracking sit inside the tag manager. Get Google Tag Manager installed and then your team manages it. If you don’t know how then start to learn, it’s really important. 

That is the end of my blog post. 


If the technical stuff is scaring you and you like the investor strategy stuff then maybe start with this recent interview with early Facebook investor Peter Thiel who just happened to write a book with the partner person for Facebook talking about Atlas Shrugged weird magic-nomics which basically says that there was Microsoft and they missed mobile and Google are good at search stuff but Facebook is good at mobile stuff (shhh don’t mention android) and that there is a massive global ad industry and Facebook is all over it so you should invest. 

Then Marc Benioff tweeted that he’s all about Facebook and Atlas and Salesforce exacttarget are doing some partner stuff with the partner person who wrote the book with Peter Thiel and so it’s donkey kong o’clock but we love competition but monopoly is also good and hey, it’s all about the customers SMILEY FACE :))))