Advertising Digital Innovation
4 mins read

Opinion: Why do traditional publishers fail at mobile?

Why traditional publishers fail at mobile by chasing the individual when context and creativity are king, by Joy Dean, Partnerships Director, UK & Europe, Widespace

  • Why have Google and Facebook been so successful at monetising mobile and how did it get to be such an uneven playing field?

Google and Facebook are huge entities with the ability to invest heavily. A combination of high market penetration and the ability to put cash into developing innovative ad formats has secured these two tech behemoths the top spots. However, consumers don’t spend all their time in these environments, and those looking to advertise outside of this can look at these businesses as models of how to monetise mobile successfully.

What it comes down to is two things: the right data and high quality inventory. With the data delivering context, and investing in the right inventory and new ad formats delivering the creativity.

On the data side of things, if we look at Facebook and Google, they have both secured log-in data that allows them to measure cross device. They know where the customers are and have factual data on audiences. Essentially offering advertisers the closest possible thing to certainty, without selling PII.

The issue they face is cookies from outside their ecosystem. Trying to layer data from other sources is difficult. What happens is Facebook and Google end up leaving such a small piece of pie for everyone by just taking what they can, rather than try to push different metrics that knit the entire mobile environment together. This is where the opportunity lies for those offering cross-device targeting across all mobile environments.

  • What specific challenges does mobile pose when it comes to monetising inventory?

It’s about merging deterministic and probabilistic data, so thinking not just about where the user has been, but what they like. If an advertiser has identified an audience that’s in market for their brand they need to find others that have the same interests, as this expands the targeting pool, especially into cookie-less environments such as apps or iOS. Publishers should be working with partners that enable them to do this so they can act competitively in the market.  Ultimately, we need to change the mindset about what data we need to target effectively in the mobile space if we want to compete.

  • Why does traditional media struggle to compete with Facebook and Google and who is most likely to be able to challenge them?

It’s all about creativity. There is often a conflict between creative execution and delivering against the needs of performance marketing KPIs. A lot of digital advertising is put out there to be performance-based when it should be about branding. After all, performance marketing ceases to be beneficial when the top of the funnel isn’t being filled by brand-led advertising.

It’s also worth noting that many advertisers don’t have their own in-house or agency resources to create their own ads and content. As a result, there are some publishers out there that work with brands and tech partners to fill this need, developing rich media ads and native content to help these brands cut through on mobile.

It’s this kind of specialist USP that fits the mobile-specific space that will set a proposition apart. For us at Widespace that’s delivering mobile branding, but all publishers should be thinking about where they can deliver value that isn’t found elsewhere in the market. It’s also worth considering consolidating with other players that have similar scope so you can rise up as a group.

  • What would be your top tips for publishers looking to challenge Facebook and Google?

It comes down to accountability and it comes down to money. Publishers should be taking ownership of what is run on their site and then driving the highest value for the quality they offer. To do this they must find trusted partners that have the technology to support their aims so as to increase yield. Also, it’s worth considering working in an automated guarantee format as opposed to throwing traffic into an open marketplace bid that devalues inventory.

Alongside this, break inventory into tiers. Have direct sales in tier one. Tier two is a transparent marketplace selling programmatically in an automated guaranteed fashion. Tier three is an open marketplace – but it must hit minimum standards as well has having creative that uplifts the site. The perceived quality of the publisher goes down otherwise.

Lastly, publishers need to take ownership of long term revenue and invest in updating the infrastructure. Do you need an app? Should you be investing in creating a mobile, responsive site?

  • What type of new cooperation or new business models should publishers try out or focus on to become more competitive?

Tiering out the inventory will certainly help. Part of it is also about being open to testing with new partners to see what works, as well as finding specialists. This means someone who understands the specifics of the digital space and selling it. These kind of partners will help optimise pages so that when an ad campaign is served, it delivers much better results and therefore, advertisers will want to come back.

  • How can publishers protect and highlight the value of context and editorial content, versus the pure logic of end user cookie matching?

The detail of the cookie isn’t as important as the interests of the users on the site, and how those relate to the ad served. The future of mobile is resting on knowing how to keep visitors engaged, and doing so by finding out what their interests are and working with partners that can turn that into a broader, more engaged targeting group. We’re ultimately using data to move on from demographic twinning to interest twinning as it delivers greater value to the consumer – so is more valuable to both the publisher and advertiser. All that’s required after that is high quality execution, which is where creativity and editorial content comes in.

Joy Dean, Partnerships Director, UK & Europe, Widespace