What's Holding Back the Mobile Advertising Revolution?

Posted 7/27/2015 10:01:32 AM by ITAY RIEMER, General Manager Mobile at ironSource

While it may seem as though mobile rules our world today, it was only ten years ago that our phones were rudimentary devices. A decade is not such a long time.  

Today smartphones and tablets have replaced PCs as the primary way most people get online, yet content creators and advertisers alike are still working out how to make mobile work best for them. They face issues of viewability, attribution, and effective measurement.

Explosive it may be, but the mobile advertising revolution is still in its relative infancy. While the 2 billion Android and iOS users present an incredible opportunity, targeting them effectively also presents a massive challenge. 


The topic of digital ad viewability has been a hot one over the past year, and has become a chief concern for marketers and publishers. With roughly 50 percent of ads never being seen by a consumer, it's easy to understand why - there’s little point in advertising if the ad cannot be seen.

Although standards have been established for desktop display ads, mobile presents an entirely new field to standardize. Screens are smaller, and any standard has to take account the different environments of mobile web and in-app. While the Media Ratings Council has released preliminary guidelines for measuring viewable impressions on mobile, we’re still far away from a final standard that not only helps clients measure more effectively, but which can also be agreed upon and endorsed by an entire industry. 

There’s no doubt that tackling the issue of finding a standard definition of viewability is a complex task, especially in today’s dynamic and evolving media marketplace. Yet, despite the challenges, the importance in achieving a consensus across the board for an acceptable definition is essential, and not making it a priority will work against mobile achieving maturity.


While mobile promises huge growth and intimate access to the user, it’s also multiplying the number of touch points brands and businesses have to manage with their target audience. As smartphone and tablet penetration increase, and ‘always on’ becomes more than just a trend, brands and advertisers are able to interact with consumers across their devices almost constantly. But this also means the customer journey is no longer a linear funnel but a weaving path with multiple touch points, and it becomes increasingly harder to tell which ad worked to convert a user. 

Attribution, the holy grail of tracking consumers from online behavior through offline purchase, remains elusive, though giants like Facebook and Google are working hard to allow marketers to link up the moving points of a campaign to the end purchase point. Nevertheless, the more devices we have and channels we use, the harder – and more critical – it becomes to be able to tell which succession of ads or marketing experiences worked to result in a closed sale. 

If we want to make mobile truly work to drive sales and business goals, we will need to find a way for advertisers to access the kind of actionable data and insights on their customers beyond whether they saw the ad and clicked on it. 

Effective Measurement

Data has long been a part of desktop advertising decisions, and it needs to be so with mobile as well. Better analytics and measurement solutions are needed in order to gauge mobile ROI, since advertisers will be hesitant to invest if they don’t see a clear return. 

While mobile advertising budgets might be growing, they still only account of about 5% of the average brand’s budget. If we want that number to substantially increase, we need to provide the tools to measure the effectiveness of mobile advertising. 

But multiple factors have to be taken into account when evaluating the success of a mobile ad campaign, and the issue is complicated by the fact that mobile is often one part of a larger strategy. Guidelines across devices need to be more cohesive, along with quantifiable benchmarks to enable marketers to compare the effectiveness of mobile advertising with advertising in other media. 

‘How does mobile work differently’ is still a question we are learning how to answer. Brands are still unsure of how to recalibrate and reformat their message for the mobile medium, and the right, relevant data will hold the key to understanding how best to use the mobile medium to communicate with consumers. 

In some ways, mobile ran before it could walk. There has been massive excitement around the incredible opportunity to interact with a consumer in the palm of their hand wherever they are in the world. That opportunity is real, but in order for mobile to make good on its potential, we need to evaluate what is missing in the industry, and work swiftly to address those gaps. 

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About the author: ITAY RIEMER, General Manager Mobile at ironSource

As the General Manager Mobile at ironSource, Itay Riemer leads both the day-to-day and long-term operations for the Company's mobile products and services. He earned both his BA in Computer Science and MBA from Tel Aviv University and recently completed a second BA in Psychology.

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