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Better Mobile Metrics Can Help APAC Brands Get Over Numbers Obsession

There is urgent need to define viewability and create standardised metrics for mobile ads in Asia-Pacific, where marketers remain hooked on the numbers game, focusing their attention on clicks rather than other more effective metrics.

This obsession over clicks has resulted in brands neglecting the importance of verification, says Rohit Dadwal, Asia-Pacific managing director at Mobile Marketing Association (MMA), who underscores the importance of delivering better accountability as well as transparency.

In this Q&A with ExchangeWire, Dadwal further highlights that security still is a concern in the mobile space, as is marketers’ tendency to overlook the need to build mobile-optimised sites and content in order to deliver a better user experience across all platforms.

ExchangeWire: What are MMA’s priorities for Asia-Pacific over the next couple of years?

Rohit Dadwal: Mobile has come to a level of maturity where it is expected to adhere to the highest standards in the advertising world. Mobile video is emerging as the ultimate storytelling tool this year, as mobile devices now account for 46% of all video viewing. Against this backdrop, as we chart our path ahead and navigate a landscape dominated by video, there are three key priorities that we believe will fuel progress in mobile marketing.

First, there’s a need to define viewability and set the standard. As attention spans continue to decline, the concept of viewability remains key to impression quality; an unseen advertisement is essentially a lost opportunity to impact performance. Viewability plays a key role in mobile marketing to drive uplift in brand metrics and enhance accountability. This is why a clear standard, and one that is robustly defined and well-understood across the industry, is critically needed. We recognise this and will continue leading the way.

Second, we need to evaluate the new consumer journey through multi-touch attribution. With the increased adoption of mobile marketing strategies, marketers are moving away from last-click attribution. Multi-touch attribution has become much more vital for marketers to get a clearer picture of users’ media sources, as well as the value each source delivers to the marketer. Our dedicated research on the subject will generate insights that will contribute to a better understanding.

Rohit Dadwal, APAC MD, MMA

Third, deployment must go beyond theory to enhance marketing effectiveness. Our Cross Marketing Effectiveness (SMoX) Study continues to be a key focus this year, as we look at the impact of mobile in the marketing mix to deliver insights to brands and marketers across various topics, including mobile investment, optimal mobile allocation, and meeting marketing goals with mobile.

Where are the opportunities, and challenges, for the Asia-Pacific mobile marketing landscape? How can marketers plug these issues and where do agencies and ad tech vendors play a role?

Mobile is the new paradigm that has driven changes at multiple levels – consumers are now spending more time accessing content in micro-moments and types of content, too, have had to evolve as a result. Amidst this complex environment, challenges that exist present opportunities for marketers’ growth as they adopt the platform.

Having a mobile-first strategy is now more essential than before; but marketers face the problem of establishing the definition of viewability and difficulty in reaching out directly to the right audience. With mobile devices expected to account for 75% of global internet use in 2017, more sophisticated user behaviour is expected to emerge among consumers, which presents opportunities for greater investments in more advanced measurement and analytics tools.

Next, it is challenging to ensure creative quality is delivered through mobile devices and to strike a balance between effective communications, without being too intrusive on the consumer’s privacy. As the region is seeing growth on the use of apps and overall app experience, this presents a huge opportunity for brands and marketers to explore and further develop and refine their strategy. In addition, with the rise of ad blocking – where one-in-five smartphone users worldwide will block ads on their mobile – marketers can leverage this trend to design and deliver more relevant message to consumers, and deliver experiences that are aligned with their needs.

Third, with Asia-Pacific comprising such a diverse landscape, cultural and language differences are bound to pose challenges for marketers. However, this presents marketers and brands with the opportunity to leverage the differences and offer localisation in message design, as well as present a more targeted and personalised user experience to consumers.

Finally, an underlying challenge and concern continues to revolve around security, especially amid the increase in frequency of malware and security breaches occurring and resulting in sizeable revenue losses. However, these very security risks pose an opportunity for brands to step up efforts to proactively educate customers on fraud risks and to invest in enhancing the mobile experience for users, with improved capabilities for authentication. By ensuring customers are sufficiently aware of, and educated on, these security issues, brands will be better able to earn the trust of customers and, ultimately, drive loyalty amongst them.

Earlier this year, you had highlighted security and metrics as key concerns for the mobile ad space. How have these played out so far? Have you seen any resolutions, or are these lacking?

As mentioned above, mobile security continues to be a key challenge and concern in the mobile marketing space and we are still seeing instances of hacking and data breaches. In Singapore, for instance, smartphone and mobile broadband see penetration levels of over 100%. Yet, a survey by Singapore’s Cyber Security Agency found that one-in-three Singaporeans had not equipped their mobile phones with antivirus software, which further increases the vulnerability to such threats.

Measurements in the mobile ad space also continue to pose a sizeable challenge to marketers, as it remains difficult to attain sufficiently standardised metrics to measure performance. Brands and marketers remain caught up in the numbers game, focusing their attention and efforts on number of clicks – which is not the most accurate reflection of a campaign’s performance. It is with this in mind that we’ve chosen to focus on viewability, going forward, which serves to deliver improved accountability in mobile marketing.

What are some common mistakes Asia-Pacific marketers today make with their mobile campaigns?

Even as mobile continues to transform the consumer landscape, and alter the way consumers go about their daily lives, there are many potential pitfalls amongst marketers in this region when designing their mobile campaigns. One of the most prevalent mistakes is a failure to develop mobile-optimised sites, resulting in brands sending customers to a minimised version of the desktop website. This restricts the consumer from enjoying the full mobile experience, instead delivering a cluttered site with surplus functions and content that complicates the navigation process and, eventually, frustrates the customer.

In addition, many marketers today overlook the importance of developing an accurate audience-targeting strategy to reach the right audience, and often end up generalising and targeting too wide a group. It is most effective to narrow down the target audience and better understand what the individuals are after, to best provide them with what they want.

Many marketers also assume that adopting a mobile-first strategy means flooding their target audience with ads, which has resulted in the rise of mobile ad blocking. Marketers need to meet their customers’ demands for fewer ads and provide them with what they want to see to best reach them. The nature of mobile content itself, thus, needs to be changed into a value-added one in order to provide users with a seamless mobile experience.

With the rise of programmatic, media buyers could prioritise other data points, such as user behaviour and geolocation and, hence, lose sight of the need to establish app-certification status. Do you think this is more pervasive in Asia-Pacific, where the mobile app ecosystem is highly vibrant? What do marketers need to be mindful of in light of these findings? And how is ad fraud still a problem today, despite higher access to analytics, tags, and parameters? Wasn’t programmatic supposed to fix all this?

Brands and marketers in the region are often focused on the rate of clicks in their campaign, often deeming this a key marker of the level of success of the campaign. However, this often results in them neglecting the importance of verifications and overlooking more telling metrics, such as time spent on the site. The introduction of programmatic buying, in fact, serves the purpose of evaluating what works best in a campaign – right down to the specifics of geographies and audience segment – to ensure brands pay for effective ads.

However, given that data is constantly evolving, and we are still in the nascent stages of programmatic ad buying, there are bound to be a series of teething problems – as with any new forms of technology.

For instance, while advertising practitioners are increasingly putting in place appropriate tools, such as ad-verification software and blacklists of unwanted keywords, ad fraud continues to be a persistent issue in digital advertising. This encompasses issues from fake clicks to inflated site traffic numbers, and a lack of transparency and control over ad spend.

Programmatic has further exacerbated some of these issues by overlooking the monitoring of traffic that is not generated by humans, but by robots, which further results in wasted ad spend. To overcome these, brands and marketers need to develop an open relationship with partner agencies, so as to have greater insight into understanding the programmatic ecosystem and, thus, achieve better results with greater transparency.

In addition, programmatic campaigns face the issue of performance evaluation, due to the nature of such ads being placed on myriad publisher sites. This results in the ads going through numerous intermediaries and, often, an overstating of campaign metrics and results. When advertisers focus on these metrics, they eventually further expose themselves to fraud viewability issues and, ultimately, receive lower returns on investments.

What needs to change for programmatic, in particular mobile programmatic, to see wider adoption in Asia-Pacific?

In Asia-Pacific, we are witnessing a rise in adoption of programmatic amongst marketers and the region continues to promise high growth. To encourage wider adoption of programmatic, marketers should be better equipped with the right skills and be given sufficient time to learn about and implement programmatic campaigns.

At the same time, for programmatic to advance meaningfully, the entire ecosystem needs to work more closely together. Just as marketers should work with agency partners more transparently, technologists and data scientists should also chip in to innovate and create new ways to derive actionable insights. One part cannot move forward without the others; so there’s a lot of work yet to be done to enhance that synergy.

The benefits and convenience of programmatic do not mean we can let the robots do it all right away.