Mobile Ad Tech: Buzz or Actual Trend?

“Rich media? Yes! We’re super excited about this and 80 percent of our campaigns are now run on rich media”.If you’ve been around the mobile industry for over two years, you may laugh at the above example as just about any company you spoke with at the Mobile World Congress was pitching rich media campaigns, filling their website with shiny examples of amazing HTML5 dynamic creative…In reality, rich media was an extremely small part of the actual activity as getting this format to work has always been a nightmare.

Mobile ad tech: How to tell a buzz from an actual trend

buzz-trend-mobile adtech

In an industry full of marketing people trying to position the messaging before the product, how does one differentiate between the buzz and the actual trend?Coming from ‘online’ ad tech (that’s advertising on websites in your computer browser for Y-Generation readers), I’ve had the luxury of seeing pretty much the same exact evolution of products, features and nonsense. Contrary to the prevailing idea, mobile ad tech is not a miniature version of the online world, but the reboot of traditional ad tech, done much better and faster (apart from the shiny buzzwords craze).Taking rich media as an example, here’s a quote from a Jupiter research survey dating back to September 2003: “…Rich media ads are projected to grow to 8 percent of total online spend in 2003, up to 11 percent next year and up to 25 percent by 2008”.Here’s what really happened:

trend vs buzz

While everyone was talking about this format in the early 2000s, fuelling the buzz around it, rich media was adopted neither by publishers nor advertisers as was expected. Maybe this was due to tech challenges related to the ‘big browser wars‘ era, maybe it was the expensive technology overheads or perhaps simply the users’ response to intrusive overlays and automatic sound flash ads.Coming back to my previous question, how can you differentiate a buzz from an actual trend in mobile ad tech?In my opinion, the way to predict whether something is a buzzword or a trend is to consider the actual value it provides to all sides of the ad tech equation: advertisers, publishers and, most importantly, users. In the end, it boils down to the following question: does the technology or concept underlying the buzzword provide value to all stakeholders?With rich media, the fact is that you could only tick two out of these three boxes. Although it gave value to advertisers with unlimited creative abilities and also obviously created value to publishers with higher CPMs, users eventually voted with their mouse by starting to block or shy away from websites pushing rich media ads.What’s coming now?Based on my own observations and experience, the future of advertising lies in native advertising and Word of Mouth as a Platform (WoMaaP – yes, it’s a thing).Native advertising creates huge value all along the ad tech value chain: for advertisers, publishers, and users. By blurring the borders between content and advertising, the ads are ‘legitimized’ by the context surrounding them. Users benefit, too, by enjoying a sleek UX and, given the contextual nature of native advertising, by being no longer bombarded with intrusive, disruptive and completely irrelevant ads.Word of mouth, especially leveraged through social media platforms, creates a virality-based ecosystem that puts users in the driver seat and vindicates their preferences, thereby increasing supply and improving ROI for advertisers.That’s it. Let’s meet again six months from now and gauge whether this was indeed an actual trend or just a buzzword!