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Mobile programmatic is something of a tautology - if you are advertising, you should automatically be thinking about mobile.

For marketing leaders new to programmatic and the implications of mobile, here's a primer.

All the information comes from The CMO's Guide to Programmatic, our new report, in association with Audience Science.

Mobile is not a 'channel'

Online advertising is now predominately mobile, despite some in the industry still talking about mobile as a 'channel'.

Mobile display surpassed desktop display spend in 2015 (eMarketer) and it's mobile that's driving online advertising growth (78% of growth) - in fact mobile now accounts for more than 30% of all online advertising (not just display).

But the predominance of mobile advertising doesn't mean marketers understand it.

In January 2016, the IAB noted that programmatic advertising on mobile was one of the least understood mobile topics with 44% of respondents reporting having little or no knowledge of it.

The same survey found 50% of marketers are buying mobile programmatically - the other half, it seems, need to skill up.

mobiles 

There's opportunity in context

Mike Reynolds, senior mobile executive at the IAB UK, sums up the advantages of targeting advertising to mobile users.

“There are more data points available in mobile and that’s its selling point. Location is something brands definitely get excited about. That’s the way the market is headed and programmatic will play a huge part in making this data work harder.”

Many TV advertisers also target cross-screen users (implicitly), by following up broadcast TV spots with time-sensitive, targeted mobile ads.

Tracking is possible with device IDs

Smartphones present a challenge for the cookie tracking model (multiple devices, browsers, apps and ecosystems, with no interaction between them).

But data management platforms can use a probabilistic device graph to match desktop audiences to app users.

These device graphs match specific data with a large aggregation of anonymous data to create a picture that the industry estimates is anywhere between 70-90% accurate in identifying a single customer across a variety of devices. 

This technology allows advertisers to prevent waste of spend caused by over-serving a particular user.

Despite some inaccuracy, Gerhard Louw from Deutsche Telekom advises advertisers get stuck in.

"We’re at the beginning of a mobile journey. It’s a big process and very difficult because of the User ID and cookie issue.

"There’s still a huge amount of work to be done. But the point is not to wait until it works perfectly. You shouldn’t expect to know everything. It’s like the TV audiences at the beginning when we didn’t know much about them."

"You have to start somewhere and starting with a desktop and tablet is a damn sight better than not starting at all."

tracking 

Private marketplaces offer quality on mobile

Ad blocking is increasing rapidly on mobile (because of interruptive or slow UX) and some publishers are responding by producing much slicker native ad formats that blend in on mobile (e.g. the Guardian - new Focus ads are bespoke and designed to be enjoyed rather than endured, as some automated inventory is).

Back in the world of automated display, private marketplaces are a growing trend on mobile, ensuring brand-safe inventory at scale.

Native formats are the only way

In mobile, native advertising commonly refers to native formats (rather than advertorials or sponsored content).

Native formats are ads that fit seamlessly into the UX of the publisher site - this often means simple in-stream (such as Facebook ads) but also implies that ads are shown in the right context (next to relevant content).

The Mobile Marketing Association has conducted research suggesting that mobile native ads performed up to 10 times better compared to an equal frequency of standard mobile display (e.g. banners) - it's fairly obvious why that would be.

Native ads still annoy some users, let's not kid ourselves, but far less so than having to kill overlays or put up with banners.

Programmatic video is slowly growing

Mobile video is a contentious issue - autoplay and data usage are anathema to many users.

AppNexus notes the issues responsible for the slow uptake of mobile programmatic video to date.

mobile programmatic challenges

But programmatic video is on the rise - in November 2015, Google announced that publishers would be able to sell native and mobile video ads programmatically through DoubleClick.

Interstitial video ads are also available for apps on AdExchange in both open auction and private marketplaces.

For the full introduction to programmatic, subscribers can download The CMO's Guide to Programmatic.

Ben Davis

Published 7 July, 2016 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is Deputy Editor at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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