Putting the smart back into smartphone

We’ve probably all sat at a media conference and heard the proclamation ‘it’s the year of the mobile’ (yawn). I’d always scratch my head when I kept hearing the YOTM – what does it mean? How is it defined? Why has it always been hung around the neck of mobile, but no other media (social, programmatic, video, audio, VR, AR) and who really cares?

It would be difficult for anyone with at least the simplest grasp of reality to deny that mobile is pervasive and omnipresent (oh and distracting). We are seeing smartphone penetration at levels close to desktop (81% v 96%) and in late 2015 Nielsen reported that we now spend more time per month on both smartphone and tablet than PC. The smartphone is universally agreed to be the single most important piece of technology we own and the ultimate opportunity for brands to connect on an individual level. As we continue to see ownership, usage and reliance on mobiles increase, it is hard to imagine where our go-to device can go from here.

2016 certainly won’t be the next YOTM, but it will, in my opinion, be the year that mobile ‘gets smarter’.

1. Smart creative

I would hope that 2016 will see the end of re-purposed desktop creative and static GIF’s constituting mobile advertising. ‘Smart creative’ falls into 3 categories:

I. Enticing – even though screens are generally getting bigger on smartphones and there is less noise due to fewer banners, it’s still a small screen. Make sure your banners stand out, they are legible and that they make the user want to find out more.

II. Interactive – some of the most engaging creatives allow the user to get involved in some way. Whether it’s rotating a 360 view of a car or taking a selfie to see how they look in a new pair of spectacles, providing user interaction increases time spent with the brand as well as positioning the brand as being innovative. Research has proven that those who engage more are correlated with those who purchase more.

III. Intelligent – we live in the data age and thanks to the propeller heads, all sorts of data ‘feeds’ are accessible via connections known as API’s (Application Programming Interface). YOTM has been around for almost as long as ‘big data’ and brands are struggling to leverage either. Smart creative incorporates these API ‘feeds’ and adjusts output accordingly.For example, a betting client could incorporate live odds into its ads (even better if the client has in–app tracking that determines that this user only ever bets on English Premier League and shows the user odds for their favourite team). Many ad platforms already integrate API data sources leveraging weather, pollen count, share prices, time of day or location to make advertising ‘smarter’ and more meaningful.

The same is true for mobile video, which is, for the most part (98%) viewed in portrait, but too frequently served as landscape (especially when re-purposed from a TV ad). Ad platform Celtra reported an 80% increase in completion rate for Audi when the video ad was optimized for portrait not landscape.

2. The re-invention of Apps

The ‘gold rush’ days of app creation was scarily similar to the late 90’s dot.com boom to build websites. A common client conversation would go something like this…

Client – “I’d like to build a website”
Me – “Great what would you like it to do or say?”
Client – “I don’t know, just get my brochure on line”

head in hand

Businesses tended to build an app when the CEO had traded in their BlackBerry and got an iPhone, often without a clear rationale of what to build, how it would integrate with their business or how to continue to drive engagement/usage.

The Hype Cycle was created by Gartner to demonstrate the stages that technology goes through in its journey to mass market. The ‘make me an app for under $15k’ style of development led to the shocking stat that one in five apps are only used once and apps pretty soon fell out of favour with marketing teams as it became apparent that they are not the panacea for all marketing ills.


2016 will see businesses march up the slope of enlightenment and understand that users are spending an increasing amount of time in apps (up to 84% of all time with mobile is in-app) and that an app is an important part of the digital marketing mix which, if done correctly, can drive engagement and action.

Still many brands have a build and forget mentality to apps and often fail to spend the small amount of time and money in building analytics into their app. It’s worth noting here that there has been a significant improvement in the tools available to track and measure what actually happens in the app and this data is vital to help the brand garner insights that it will use to drive future iterations.

3. The dawn of mobile payments

One of the criticisms of mobile is that it doesn’t produce an ROI. This myth has prolonged an underinvestment in mobile (especially with the challenges associated with mobile tracking and a poor appreciation of the role of mobile).

Unlike the web world, where cookies enable website visitors to be tracked from click to checkout, allowing brands to understand the relationship between input (advertising) and output (sales) on mobile is more tricky. Cookies are inconsistent on mobile and the final hurdle, namely payments, has been clunky, unfriendly and sometimes not even possible.

At the same time the battleground for mobile payments has been fought by a variety of platoons, from banks, credit card companies, handset manufacturers, traditional payment players (ie PayPal), mobile payment specialists (ie Square) to name a few. The biggest challenge has been scale and traction, with no-one really managing to be the sole, or even preferred mobile payment gateway.

The situation is rapidly changing and mobile payments are forecast to grow at 158% CAGR over the next 3 years. Last year ApplePay launched in Australia with American Express, providing a frictionless method to pay at point of purchase with a simple touch of the home button of your watch/phone. In the US Snapchat partnered with mobile payment specialist Square to produce ‘Snapcash’ in an effort to change habits with the youth demographic.

Sydney start-up Inamo is aiming to capture a slice of the market with their Inamo MyBand wearable that acts as both a fitness tracker and cashless payment system (via a PayWave style chip).

AndroidPay is set to launch in Australia this year. The Google solution involves deep integration with rewards, offers, rich receipts and location alerts in an effort to position to become a key player and offer a great service to consumers in this space.”.

Payments has the power to unlock the latent mobile spend and this is understood by all of the participants in the race. Who will win isn’t really a question we need to answer, as it is likely that there will be several ‘winners’ and a consolidation of the ‘losers’. Importantly we need to understand how crucial payments via mobile to our clients business and that it is now possible to execute via several partners.

In conclusion, 2016, I believe, will see us putting the smart back into smartphones. Whether this is through maximizing our shrewd media buys with great creative, getting a better understanding of our app audience through smarter tracking/optimisation or providing a frictionless and simple opportunity to convert mobile users into dollars with m.payments.


By Rob Marston, head of airwave, ANZ.

This article was published in AdNews: http://www.adnews.com.au/opinion/putting-the-smart-back-into-smartphone

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