Thought Leadership
Ansible on the Future of the Mobile Media Business

benjamin-bring-ansible

Benjamin Bring
VP, Mobile Media Director
Ansible

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Ansible is the mobile marketing and advertising specialist within IPG – the 3rd largest holding company in the world. Can you share more on your role as VP, Mobile Media Director at Ansible and what it entails?

I lead the media business nationally. My team acts as an extension of the traditional media teams and work with them to execute strategy, activation, research, analytics, creative and much more. Currently the team is about 15 folks of varying backgrounds. Some are agency vets and other are from the publisher side, which gives us a nice mix of understanding and experience when it comes to mobile first executions. I am personally responsible for the growth and profitability of the business.

 

Ansible is known to have marquee blue-chip clients such as Fiat, Chrysler, and Coca-Cola. To the extent that you can reveal, are there any nuances in the ways these blue-chip clients approach mobile advertising, as compared to say, other clients you have worked with?

They are all incredibly unique in their understanding of how mobile plays a role in their consumers’ journey. We are here to help them define their goals and show how important mobile is in making connections with their customers. In some cases more traditional KPI’s are applied to mobile which don’t necessarily translate and thus we are in a state of constant shifting of what should be viewed as success.

While I can’t go into much detail, I can say that you would be surprised by how advanced some of our marquee clients are and continue to be. We are constantly pushing innovation whether it is 360 video or VR, and there is a good appetite to explore on their behalf. At the end of the day, everyone is investing more in the channel and we are their guides in the this constantly evolving space.

 

There has been much hype about programmatic over the last few years, with many industry trade publications stating that it will be the main mode of media buying in the near future. What are your thoughts on programmatic, and programmatic for mobile specifically? Will there ever be a point with “One Platform to Rule Them All”?

There will never be one platform. We will most likely see some foundational partners continue to lead, but mobile is about innovation, so if any of these foundational partners don’t continue to build upon their tech stacks they will be left behind.

We look at all of programmatic from a purely ad tech perspective meaning we pull back algorithms and data to find whats real. For us it is also about using mobile first tech such as Adelphic. We typically see a good deal of breakage from desktop first platforms trying to layer on the unique mobile ad tech on top of what they have. The two pieces have a tendency not to fit in many cases. That being said, I think folks who may not be as close to programmatic execution think its all automated. That is simply not the case at this point at least.

The more that goes programmatic the more investment in staff there is to activate, optimize and report back on how campaigns are doing. The biggest issue for me now with programmatic is cross screen. Many folks feel like its in a good place but creatively its quite horrible. Think about 300×250’s on your iPad. We see them regularly and they are easily marked as cross screen executions. Once creative catches up I think we will be in a better place but I don’t see that investment as of yet. The main story is all about reach and frequency.

Another issue I am finding is with ad render in programmatic. Up to 50% of mobile ads don’t load on the exchanges due to a number of factors such as long tail inventory where you have 40 ads loading below the fold, or at least trying to. Nobody is accounting for this in a significant fashion at the moment, but the time will come and the exchanges will suffer again as a result if they don’t start measuring and blocking. Fragmentation also prevents one platform being the dominant platform. The walled gardens still exist and will continue to in the near term. Sure DBM can connect to IOS traffic but we see much higher discrepancies there.

 

What are some of the biggest challenges happening in mobile media buying today?

The commoditization of inventory which is driving down quality and making differentiation of partners that is much more blurry. As we vet partners, we do not work with two of the same location partners for example. The reason being that they sit on the same inventory and thus frequency cannot be controlled.

Secondarily, I think there is a general apathy as it pertains to media buying. We look at things from a very technical standpoint due to the commoditization that I mentioned. You can’t take anything at face value.

Coming from the publisher side, I know what is done to scale campaigns and effectively game the system in many ways. I want to be clear that I am not saying all publishers do this, but if you are not getting their raw data you have no way of telling. This is why we set up data feeds with anybody we are past a test with, and in a learning phase with.

Our analytics pulls this data apart to find the source of truth for better or worse. I think secondarily you also have publishers acting in a lackadaisical way. Folks can get too comfortable and that is not good for either side. Nothing is guaranteed and performance is king. There needs to be another reinvigoration of innovation being included into plans, and without our push we don’t see a lot of it.

Things have become templated which they should not be, since at least every three months there is a new evolution in the mobile landscape.

Thirdly is reporting. It blows my mind what we get back from some folks when we don’t push them. Mobile is incredibly granular and should be reported as such. We don’t want to optimize out entire publishers. Those strokes are too broad. There are always pockets of good inventory but I don’t get the sense the publishers look for them. They may talk about algorithms, but again, I know they are limited in most cases and sellers are not apt to speak to them at all, and product folks can’t either, in some occasions.

 

There has been a proliferation of networks, platforms, and ad technology companies a marketer can now work with, that fragmentation has become the norm for most media buyers. Do you think that this sheer number of players is sustainable, and how do you see it evolving over time?

It’s not. I think that the days of acquisition frenzies are over though. It will be about consolidation. Again, our approach is to never be duplicative on a tactical level such as location or app targeting.

 

The mobile app ecosystem has also exploded over the last few years, with reports now claiming there are over 3M apps in both the Google Play and Apple App Store (although 80%+ are ‘zombie apps’). Do you think there will ever be a point where the App “Gold Rush” will end?

I don’t see any signs of that but the gold rush is really only realized by less than 1% of apps. Look at Pokemon doing 30MM in revenue a day. They are by far the anomaly. The big gaming shops develop hundreds of apps that never see the light of day cause they just don’t gain adoption whether they are promoted or not.

I believe King had developed over 200 apps before Candy Crush hit. After that its about sustainability. Companies like Rovio are struggling and trying to reinvent themselves because they really have not launched anything as successful as Angry Birds. What they do not do is just re-skin and set up trade deals with the likes of Disney.

What interesting with them and where I see their renaissance is, is not in the app but in traditional forms such as merchandise and now movies. They have created a strong brand equity which they’re continually working to proliferate across our daily lives. Titles like Candy Crush don’t really have that opportunity in my opinion.  Again, the money will continue to grow because that is where time is spent but it will be cultivated by the very top tier apps.

 

What are some innovations happening in mobile today that excite you the most?

VR and AR (I don’t mean 360 video which some consider VR). As phones get stronger these executions will as well through cheap platforms like Samsung Gear. It allows for new engagement of course and it’s very early days in understand how we communicate in these environments. In Auto for example, the price and build experience has the opportunity to be so engaging that it could affect the declining number of lot visits.

 

What are your thoughts on advertising like new mediums, like Snapchat?

They are in a hockey stick moment but like most things they will plateau. I think the engagement opportunities in messaging type apps are the future and have yet to be fully taken advantage of. That being said, they will be commoditized as FB has been.

 

Many reports have shown that mobile video advertising is set to ‘explode’, as mobile video is a more impactful ad unit to the user, along with yielding publishers much higher eCPMs. What is your take on mobile video ads, and what is the right way to execute these types of units without disrupting the user experience?

I hope that’s the case but I am not seeing it just yet. You still have to create these assets and some folks don’t want to invest that much at the moment in this and thus they take TV assets and slap them on a mobile device which is not always the best. Video should be vertical, short and clearly ask you to take a next action that is relevant to being on a mobile device such as tap, swipe, scan etc…

 

Lastly, what is your take on the future of mobile media planning and buying, and how it will be executed?

I think our tools will continue to evolve. We  have built some of our own for operational purposes. I think there will be a consolidation of partners and that will make life easier for my team. I do agree we should continue as an agency to take more in house and activate. It’s simply more efficient and scalable. We don’t have to ping pong emails. Everything is there for us in a unified platform.

We are never going to log into more than 2 or 3, because its just not efficient, so publishers who are building dashboards as a feature is great for them internally, and should be for us by default — but we are not going to log in. We will want automated reports or just your data.

 


 

Ansible is a full service mobile marketing and advertising agency delivering innovative solutions that engage mobilized individuals with brand experiences at scale.

We offer a complete mobile solution which includes media planning and buying, data and analytics, ad creative, development of websites and apps, optimization of mobile assets, mobile consulting, UX analysis, SMS broadcast, mobile commerce, development of enterprise solutions, technology integration and expertise in emerging technology like beacons and wearables.

Our global team of strategy, media, creative and solution specialists help our clients navigate the complexity brought by ever-changing consumer technologies and behavior. We are sought out by the world’s leading companies to create new interactions that drive commercial results and build brand value.

Ansible is part of The Interpublic Group (NYSE: IPG).

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