3 Keys to Developing Better Mobile Creative

It is a commonly-held belief that people hate seeing ads on their smartphones. However, marketers have had no choice but to move digital marketing budgets to mobile since it represents such a growing share of time spent among their customers. In fact, half of consumers say they use their smartphone or tablet when they first wake up (before getting out of bed)!1 However, marketers aren't yet taking a mobile-first approach to their digital creative strategies, often relying on legacy best practices used for desktop creative.


Recent research from AOL provides marketers three keys to developing more effective mobile creative:

1. Lean into large ad formats. Mobile takeover units drive higher levels of brand recall than mobile ad units appearing within the content of the webpage or app, and higher than standard mobile banners. Consumers are also more likely to read about the brand and interact with the ad itself when the ad format is larger and more disruptive, compared to those units which appear inside the content or at the top of the screen.

Conventional wisdom says disruptive ad experiences are bad. We found that isn't necessarily true. Consumers are more likely to believe that takeover units are "in my way," compared to in-content units and standard banners, but 79% of consumers do not say takeover units are "in my way." What's more, only 3% of consumers say takeover units "made me angry" (after being exposed), which is no different than people exposed to in-content units or standard banners. Marketers have an opportunity to integrate larger ad formats into their mobile creative mix without making their customers angry. But the ads still must deliver value, so keep reading.

2. Create opportunities for interaction and make ads intuitive. We were surprised to observe in the qualitative stage of our research the hesitance, confusion and lack of awareness from consumers about the interactive elements in the mobile ad units we tested. Once they stumbled upon features like quizzes, polls, galleries, reviews and& videos in the ad unit, they were generally delighted. "Oh, that's cool! I like that a lot" said one of our Millennial participants.

The point is, marketers are often well-intentioned (even well-informed) when providing opportunities for interaction inside of mobile ad units. But consumers often don't notice or don't get it. Meaning, interactive elements must be clear and intuitive and should guide consumers as much as possible. The value for marketers is clear - consumers who interacted with the ad unit to which they were exposed were 3x more likely to say the ad made them want to learn more about the brand, than those respondents who did not interact.

3. Focus on personal relevance and combine with precise targeting. In order to define relevance, we asked consumers whether the ad they saw, a) fits with the content on the page (contextual relevance), and b) is relevant to them personally (personal relevance). Almost two-thirds of respondents said the ad was contextually-relevant, while only 16% said the ad they saw was relevant to them personally.

Importantly for marketers, 53% of respondents for whom the ad was personally-relevant said the ad "made me want to learn more about the brand," compared to 37% of respondents who thought the ad was contextually-relevant. We also saw significant differences in engagement with the ad between the two groups. As a result, we found personal relevance drives significantly higher lifts, on average, in brand affinity and purchase intent than contextual relevance. Not to say contextual alignment doesn't deliver any value for brands, it does. But brands see significant incremental benefit when ads are personally-relevant to their intended target. Which means, creative messaging must be developed with specific target audiences in mind, and paired with precise targeting to ensure the relevant message is actually delivered to the intended audience.

We believe these keys only work when a brand and its agency partners are explicit upfront in the campaign planning process about objectives and KPIs. Once aligned, it is important to focus on developing better ad experiences on mobile that will ultimately drive stronger brand results.

If you have questions about the research or would like to discuss these implications in more detail, please contact your AOL account lead or email Adlytics.Team@teamaol.com.

1 AOL Omnibus Survey, 2016