Mobile Ads: They don't have to be amazing, they just have to be right


IAB UK research from more than 1200 UK online adults reveals that 'fit for purpose' ads significantly increase brand metrics for advertisers.

See the research here

The IAB UK have released a study that looked at the best ways to advertise to people on smartphones and revealed that fit for purpose ads - those optimised for smartphones - can shift brand metrics and can increase positive perceptions like that of the brand being viewed as more premium and more trusted.

"As digital advertising matures, it's important the UK is leading the charge in building a sustainable future for our industry," said Tim Elkington, Chief Digital Officer at IAB UK. 

The study revealed that people overwhelmingly want an ad-funded internet - 84% of UK adults prefer to access online content for free in exchange for viewing ads as opposed to paying for an ad-free experience.

Elkington added, "A sustainable future is about making the experience work for everyone in the digital ecosystem, most importantly, people. Context is not a new concept, but we are still seeing a lot of ads not fit for purpose, and this report shows there are big benefits for brands that optimise for smartphones."

This sentiment is echoed by Ben Phillips, Global Head of Mobile, at MediaCom, who said, "Our philosophy is that content should always be designed with a connection to the audience in mind. When it comes to mobile, brands often use [TV commercials] or desktop creative for a mobile environment and expect it to work. This is not the right approach and never will be."

The study also demonstrated the risk for advertisers that don't optimise ads for smartphone and found that 78% of UK adults are annoyed by ads that aren't tailored for their smartphone device.

But it's not just advertisers at risk. The research showed that everyone within the industry stands to lose out if non-optimised ads continue to be used. When seeing a bad or poorly designed smartphone ad, 37% of respondents blamed the website or platform and 33% blamed the advertised brand. 

Even quick fixes can make a big difference. When testing optimised and non-optimised assets, the study found a statistically significant percentage increase in several key brand metrics including preference (+44%), brand consideration (+56%), likelihood to find out more (+50%), trust (+33%) and perception of premium (+21%) for the smartphone-optimised ads.

The study also revealed that a shorter, optimised online video ad was more likely to be watched in full and perceived as creative, engaging and attention-grabbing, and left people feeling as happy when compared to longer 30 second TV ads. 

Some marketers, such as Unilever, already have a clear understanding of the importance of creating better bespoke advertising. 

"Let's be clear, experience matters. Most people don't dislike advertising, they dislike bad advertising experiences. In a time where it has never been more important to respect context and provide value in return for people's attention, being fit for purpose is undoubtedly a win-win for advertisers and the user," said Nathan Cook, Global Director, Advertising Innovation at Unilever Global Marketing.

To help ad creators maximise their chance of getting creative fit for smartphone the IAB UK recommends the following guidelines when developing smartphone ads: 

  • Think about how the ad will be executed on a smartphone at the onset of the creative process

  • Include brand messaging upfront from the start of the ad

  • Test ads on different screen sizes to ensure text and imagery are clear

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