I was delighted to offer some thoughts on what 2022 might hold in store for mobile advertising, although I have to say trying to guess what will happen net week is tough enough in the current climate!
Before we can look forward, it is important to try and learn from history and reflect on what has gone before.
Mobile advertising faced many challenges in 2021, from ad fraud at one end of the spectrum, to data privacy at the other. In spite of this, I believe the industry has adapted and continues to adapt, and can look forward to 2022 with some optimism.
Ad fraud is an ever-present problem, despite the best efforts of the companies trying to combat it. It takes many forms, from domain spoofing, where a website name or email domain is faked to fool users; to ad stacking, where multiple ads are overlayed at the same time and money charged for fraudulent impressions; and perhaps the best-known: bots, which impersonate humans and click on ads, but which, of course, never convert because they’re not real people. All they do is drain the budget.
The impact of ad fraud is felt in many ways. Budgets are exhausted by fake clicks, and advertisers find it hard to attribute their spend accurately, to see which channels are delivering good return on investment.
According to data from AppsFlyer, global financial exposure to app install fraud in H1 2020 was $1.6bn while figures from Statista reveal that in 2019, $18.7bn was lost to ad fraud in China; $2.6bn in N. America; and $804m in EMEA.
Efforts to combat ad fraud have ramped up significantly in recent years and there are many companies in the market claiming to be able to mitigate its effects, if not solve the problem completely. But in reality, it’s a shape-shifting issue and one that is unlikely to ever be completely eradicated when there is so much to be made by fraudsters. It is worth following Dr Augustine Fou on LinkedIn for more commentary on the many faces of ad fraud and the impact on marketers.
On the data privacy front, Apple’s introduction of its App Tracking Transparency (ATT) framework, with the launch of iOS 14.5, forced many marketers to rethink their approach to targeting mobile users. With ATT, apps are required to seek the user’s permission if they want to track their activity across other companies' apps and websites. And as of late June, according to Mobiledevmemo,
<https://mobiledevmemo.com/att-is-killing-advertising-performance-six-tactics-for-adapting-to-the-new-advertising-landscape/> over 70% of iOS devices had upgraded to a version of iOS that requires compliance with ATT. So in most instances, marketers’ ability to track users as they engage with different apps and websites has been severely impacted, reducing the size of their addressable market.
And it’s not just Apple. Shortly after the roll out of ATT, Google announced that it would also allow Android users to opt out of being tracked by advertisers.
With the amount of third-party data in decline, contextual advertising is making a strong comeback. In its simplest form, contextual advertising places ads in amongst relevant content. A simple example would be an ad for a play in the section of a newspaper’s website where its reviews of plays are found.
Many eye-tracking studies have found that the closer the advert is contextually matched to the content, the more attention that ad receives, which leads to more recall post-campaign.
Is mobile even a useful distinction?
It is safe to say that the 'year of the mobile' has come and gone, although identifying which year that was specifically may be a harder brief.
Is mobile advertising even a worthwhile distinction anymore or is everything just digital? Yes, mobile is a digital channel, but the mobile phone offers so many possibilities from an advertising perspective. Think about calls to action. If you’re a retailer trying to drive traffic to a nearby store, you can include a click to show a map with navigation directions. Or you could click to launch the phone’s calendar in order to mark the date of a show, a movie preview, or whatever it is your ad is promoting. The mobile phone remains the remote control for our lives, and is often the closest device to the point of sale, both digitally and physically, so I think mobile advertising still requires separate consideration.
Traditionally, mobile has been seen as more of a performance channel, perhaps because it is often so close to a digital or physical point of sale, but as screens become bigger, and contextual advertising evolves, brands are beginning to appreciate that it can be used as a branding channel, particularly when platforms like TikTok and mobile games enable them to integrate their advertising so natively into the editorial experience.
One final thought: if mobile is an important marketing channel in developed markets, it becomes even more so in emerging ones, where fixed line, PC-based internet access is much less prevalent, and many more people rely on the mobile phone as their link to the digital world.
I'm personally confident about the prospects for mobile advertising in 2022. The pandemic, for all the trouble it has caused, has led to huge increases in mobile-centric behaviour, from playing mobile games to scanning QR codes in bars and restaurants to access the menu, and getting Covid passes to enter crowded areas. These behaviours, once learned, are not easily forgotten.
The audience for mobile advertising is bigger than it has ever been, even if advertisers might need to be a little bit smarter in how they reach and engage with it.