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March 23, 2016

Smart marketers will embrace mobile marketing. They'll deliver useful, relevant brand messages with context, which will drive more customers to store, more eyeballs to the season premiere, or increase sales of their new menu items. Their ads won't look anything like right-rails or mobile banners, and they won't be measured by CTR. Consumer attention, followed by budgets, is shifting toward mobile, so it's time to consider how the medium should be used, what makes it unique, and how we can prove it's effective.

Early television advertising was essentially graphic radio advertising—moving text accompanied by a voice-over. In the '90s, web marketing was print marketing redux. New mediums often begin with pasting the old onto the new, with the expectation that it will be possible to measure and drive the same kinds of engagement. We see the same on mobile today, and, as marketers, we only have ourselves to blame. Mobile banners are a dull use of the medium, and yet they constitute 82 percent of mobile advertising, according to Namo Media. We know that mobile banners are widely ignored (Forbes reports that up to 40 percent of clicks are accidental), and it's quickly becoming acknowledged that their days are numbered. To be smart, we have to understand context.

Our phones are the only screens we carry from bed to bathroom to boardroom. This screen is beside us more often than not, whether we're watching TV, shopping for groceries, running through the park, and so on—the list is endless. Therefore, it's counterintuitive that the data we use to target and measure activity on mobile are so blunt. Mobile devices are packed full of sensors recording great data. Why aren't we able to use all of it?

Users are in app silos. According to Flurry Analytics, 86 percent of all time on mobile is spent in-app. We can still reach users in native apps, but when marketers buy that inventory blindly, they lose context. Critical user signals are lost in mobile ad networks, leaving marketers to find signals that are common denominators across hundreds or thousands of apps, which ultimately compromises their understanding of context and effectiveness. With such a vague understanding of user behavior at the moment of an ad impression, we're unable to deliver ads of value or measure their effectiveness. A recent Sharethrough study reveals that today's native ads deliver an 18 percent higher lift in purchase intent over networks. And if there's one signal that mobile marketing should always consider, it's location.

Currently, location signals in mobile marketing are undeniably valuable yet woefully misunderstood. AdExchanger sums up the irony of location inaccuracy through deep research, concluding that "less than 1 percent of location data from ad exchanges is accurate enough to help marketers understand people's movements in the real world." Even with precise signals, real value isn't found in reaching people simply because they're nearby. There are marginal performance lifts in geoawareness and geofenced campaigns, but again, context is king. Native apps, by contrast, are a unique channel for marketing, with strong signals of user location, behavior, context, and goals. The mobile device is a constant throughout our daily routines—as marketers we should be able to see and take advantage of that data. Native location apps give us rich behavioral profiling, valuable context, and an audience that sees and responds to ads.

There's no one-size-fits-all solution for measuring mobile marketing at scale. There are panel-based solutions, which only measure a portion of your audience and may have conflicts of interest. There are third-party solutions, such as connecting data through transactions at the register, but these require expensive data subscriptions and complex technical integrations. On a native ad platform, you aren't going to see the scale of impressions, clicks, and purchases that you'll see with other solutions, but the results you do see will be authentic. Marketers are learning the only end-to-end solutions that can measure ad effectiveness from impression to purchase are first-party, native platforms with accurate location signals.

Mark Campos is a Product Strategist for Waze.
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