By Ian Gibbs

As the Andreesen Horowitz analyst Benedict Evans reminded us only a few months ago, mobile is eating the world. 2.5 billion people now own a smartphone –  an unprecedented pace of tech adoption. Where consumers go, so too does advertising spend. Resultantly, we have seen exponential growth in mobile ad spend in UK with mobile display reaching £800m in the first half of 2016 (IAB).

Why therefore are so many brands still not getting mobile right? 71% of us say that at least half the ads we see every day disrupt our mobile experience (Celtra & Forrester). Furthermore, it’s not even as if this disruption is creating particularly memorable brand experiences.

An analysis of On Device Research’s ad effectiveness database reveals that the top performing 20% of mobile ads on average result in an improvement in online ad recall that is over six times higher versus others. Simply put, it’s only a minority of mobile ads that are truly memorable.

When it comes to campaign planning, audience targeting, delivery and optimization, mobile offers an abundance of opportunity the likes of which no other platform has ever seen. But planning and execution are only part of what makes a great mobile campaign. The key question remains:

What are the top 20% of mobile ads doing creatively that most other mobile ads aren’t?

The answer lies in the following ten creative best practice guidelines and it should be noted that the top performing campaigns on average adhere to six of them:

  1. Logo presence on every frame is crucial: It may sound obvious, but plenty of mobile ads leave you guessing who the advertiser is until the last minute – and by then many consumers have moved on.
  2. A human presence can engage: Nearly two thirds of the top performing ads contain a human presence, compared to less than half of the worst performing ads. People use products and services and it doesn’t hurt to show it!
  3. Product shots catch the eye: 91% of top performing ads contain a product shot. If you want consumers to invest in your brand, show them what you want them to invest in.
  4. Placing branding at the top of the creative boosts ad recall: If you want your ad to be memorable, place your brand logo at the point where a consumer’s eye is most likely to be drawn to first.
  5. Be cautious with dual branding as it can distract and confuse: The retail sector is particularly guilty of this, displaying both retailer and product logos at once. Double the amount of worst performing ads contain dual branding versus the top performers.
  6. Clarity of message is key: Aim for cut-through, not clutter. A single clear message will nearly always beat a text heavy ad overloaded with information.
  7. Video grabs the user’s attention. Again, an obvious one, but the richer the media, the more eye catching it is and video ads are no exception.
  8. Inject a little humour to your creative: Humour may be subjective, but over a quarter of the best performing ads were attempting to be humorous vs. just 6% of the worst performing.
  9. A bit of interactivity holds the user’s attention: The personal and tactile nature of our relationship with our smartphones affords a whole host of interactive ad opportunities, but brands must be careful not to irritate.
  10. If you want to drive purchase, then unsurprisingly having a strong call to action helps.  It’s amazing how many ads don’t tell consumers how to actually fulfil a purchase!

The ten creative best practices were derived by analysing On Device Research’s database of over 200 mobile advertising brand impact research studies. Each study employs a control vs. exposed methodology to ascertain the impact of ad exposure on a number of ad metrics: from awareness to ad recall, and from brand consideration and purchase intent.

Distilling a creative’s nuanced and often subjective role in to a binary set of recommendations can risk becoming an overly reductive process, and clearly not all of these recommendations are relevant for every category. However, these recommendations are rooted in quantitative analysis and as such provide at least a check list for marketers to reference before embarking on a mobile campaign.

Clearly all mobile ads have not been created equal, but by following these ten guidelines, they’ll at least have a fighting chance.

By Ian Gibbs, On Device Research

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