How brands and publishers are capitalizing on mobile video ad trends in 2021


Raphaël Rodier, Global Chief Revenue Officer, Ogury

While 2020 was an unusual year — for many media companies a time of caution, paused budgets and uncertainty — publishers are viewing it as an inflection point. Like so many other things, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated consumer consumption trends that had been building for years, particularly their affinity for mobile-friendly content. 

In many ways, news consumption became a life-and-death imperative last year. People were bound to their mobile devices for the latest health and safety recommendations, as well as following the impact of social and political unrest. Although not so dire, the worlds of entertainment and social engagement were also significantly impacted. 

With most stadiums and movie theaters shuttered, global mobile gaming app installs soared 45%, and dating apps showed an average 20% surge in usage — and July, August and September 2020 showed a 25% year-over-year increase in app usage overall. Meanwhile, linear TV viewership is also dropping. 

These numbers are music to the ears of publishers and brands that have already recognized the value of mobile advertising. With consumers shifting focus and recent statistics indicating there are 5.2 billion unique mobile users worldwide — nearly 67% of the population — the data spotlights the untapped potential of delivering ads that appeal to people where they are already spending much of their time.

Consumers are engaging with richer mobile experiences

Unlike a TV or shared computer environment, mobile offers the opportunity to reach consumers and reach them on their most personal device. The growing availability of 5G will only drive consumer anticipation of a richer mobile experience. The content people consume may vary within predictable patterns. How people choose to consume that content, however, has probably changed for good.

People have come to demand a better experience with any media, and mobile content has largely risen to meet that demand. Look no further than the steady increase in time spent on mobile. 

The common denominator for successful on-screen engagements is how consumers choose to interact with their environment. On CTV, users have the choice to skip ads or to eliminate them completely via subscriptions. Mobile video ad experiences can offer many of the same approaches. Native, interstitial and interscroller formats all may have a place in the advertiser’s arsenal. Still, marketing teams must ensure that they’re indeed providing consumers with choices about how to interact with ads — and they need to match impact with context.

For example, in mobile gaming apps, ads can be placed at logical stopping points between levels, taking up the entire mobile screen without disrupting play. This offers 100% share of voice and screen, a most impactful approach, even if it is not appropriate for all mobile experiences. In other cases, the right decision is to serve mobile ad options that don’t interrupt or slow content consumption. 

These factors pressure publishers to evolve as well, and their first step becomes moving the focus away from pushing a message, emphasizing instead the consumer experience as the central element. 

Embracing advertising’s evolution means embracing mobile’s nuances

Technology is not the only change publishers need to embrace. Brands and publishers need to shift their thinking around the power of mobile. Instead of trying to tie mobile video ads directly to a sale — something that is not expected of TV ads, by the way — ads should be integrated into a larger branding and awareness strategy. 

As marketing teams move beyond thinking about mobile video as a lower-funnel opportunity, they can focus their branding investment on reaching relevant consumers exactly where they are, instead of casting a broader net in the hopes that a person happens to be watching the right content at the right time. This more personalized connection leads to significantly better results, even if marketing efforts will undoubtedly (and primarily) continue to be measured by upper-funnel KPIs. 

Advertisers tend to rely on the video completion rate as a metric of success. However, this doesn’t account for viewability, particularly in a mobile environment. For so long, measuring the viewability of mobile campaigns felt impossible. Now, OMID (Open Measurement Definition Interface) compliant inventory is available across mobile apps and soon on the web. That means any video placement on mobile can be measured for viewability, and so the metric should always be considered. 

Another thing to consider is a multiplier of metrics — looking at viewability and the video completion rate to get the full sense of a video’s impact. This is called the viewable video completion rate. Data shows that viewers retain 95% of a message when they watch it in a video. If the ad plays off-screen, it is neither actually seen by the consumer nor does it meet any of a brand’s goals. That can have engagement and revenue repercussions for publishers.

The new frontier delivers exceptional experiences

Last year brought changes in other notable ways. As more consumers moved online, more efforts to protect their data and privacy popped up. Notably, for advertisers, Apple and Google’s new privacy policies marked important shifts in the way consumers are targeted. 

These changes have created a world of haves and have-nots in ad tech. Those with strategies for reaching relevant audiences without personal data are in a much better position to provide a strong branding experience for consumers. Ad spending through 2025 is expected to show an annual growth rate of 5.1%. By 2024, experts predict, mobile will account for about 73% of video ad spending. That provides abundant opportunities to broaden reach responsibly without the use of cookies or IDs.

On the one hand, the pandemic has advanced a wide range of digital technologies. On the other, it has amplified consumer exhaustion with intrusive digital experiences. Digital fatigue is real, which means it is critical for publishers to re-center on a meaningful audience experience. The best way to do that is to focus on delivering the best and most diverse content possible that attracts the widest range of users.

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