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10 hard-won lessons from 2011 to use in 2012

By Lara Mehanna

Raise your hand if you are done with 2012 predictions. Me, too.

A lot of them are great, and they help guide strategy, but if you are in the trenches, trying to execute against your customer’s key performance indicators, well, strategy-schmatejy. What you really want are tricks and ways to avoid the traps.

With that in mind, here are 10 hard-won lessons from 2011 for you to use in 2012.

1. The toughest job you will ever love
Say you are running a mobile campaign for a financial services customer. You use a success metric of new account sign-ups – a process that is crazy complicated, involving lots of typing on multiple screens.

Feature phones may not work well in this case compared with tablets or smartphones, because it is generally more comfortable to type and navigate through multiple pages on a bigger screen.

It is surprising how tablet performance compares with display.

Think display is categorically more effective than mobile? Tablets often provide comparable performance to display, proving that even for the most complex conversion events, mobile can drive incremental outcomes for an advertiser.

Takeaway: Run your campaign across multiple channels and multiple device types to discover your price-performance sweet spot.

2. Size does not matter
I know what you are thinking. Tablets are such a superior experience that they should always get the lion’s share of spend. Hold onto your iPads, partner.

Big screens are great for multi-step conversions, but not all conversions are multi-step.

Sometimes, the highest-performing handset can have the smallest screen. It really depends on the type of campaign you are running, and what metrics you are optimizing against. Feature phones can be great for direct response campaigns.

Takeaway: Make sure your vendor can target by a variety of criteria – carrier, manufacturer, device and device operating system. And then weigh every targeting decision against the reduction in scale.

3. Hit me, baby, one more time
Pardon the gratuitous Britney reference, but it fits this next point perfectly.

Frequency conversion analysis and across multiple campaigns and multiple verticals can be complicated.

Over the course of a 90-day campaign, do not be surprised if the effectiveness of subsequent impressions does not start to decline until well after the 40-, 50- and even the 55-frequency mark.
Paced over the course of a campaign, you would be surprised how much return can still be harvested at the higher frequencies.

Takeaway: Do not set pre-determined limits on frequency. Find a partner with a system that can optimize effectively across multiple hits.

4. Take the long way home
Supertramp alert. Am I showing my age?

Just because you are running a campaign where 60 percent of actions are completed within two days of exposure to the first impression does not mean that you should end the campaign. It might take days or weeks to hit 90 percent.

Takeaway: Do not take campaigns out of the field prematurely and make sure your attribution windows are broad enough to capture all of the activity you are driving.

5. Hello, is it me you are looking for?
Here is another big screen surprise: tablets did not always deliver for upper funnel awareness.

Feature phones can do admirably well compared to smart and tablet devices. We need more data before making any lasting conclusions but one hypothesis is: on a big screen, you may be competing with a lot of other stimuli. On a small screen, you are the star.

Takeaway: When it comes time to building awareness, cast a wide net. Tablets and feature phones can both deliver the goods.

6. These are not the droids you are looking for
Actually, that is not true. Droids should be part of your targeting mix.

Handset type is actually a pretty big driver of performance. But handsets have a way of surprising planners.

For instance, while BlackBerries have traditionally dominated within the audience segment of enterprise smartphone users , there are times when LG and Motorola phones will yield the best response rates within that demographic. You just never know.

Takeaway: Do not ignore hunches or history, but allow your plan to also find surprising pockets of demand. Expertise plus experimentation is the name of the mobile game.

7. A random walk down Madison Avenue
No matter the vertical or target metric, early data is not necessarily indicative of future performance.

Research In Motion devices crushed it in November and tanked in December. Everybody is working for the weekend in Q3. In Q4, weekend day parts go silent. Verizon is up. Verizon is down.

Takeaway: If you are still on a system that requires manual rules setting, run as fast as you can for the nearest exit. In a channel where change is omnipresent, your bids must be dynamic and based on ongoing learning.

8. Come to the Android side. We have cookies.
If and until Apple changes its tune on third-party cookies, iOS tracking will remain a drag, but with a large percent of the installed base in the United States, it is a necessary drag.

The bottom line is that iOS can be a huge performance driver – just look at how popular iPhones and iPads are.

Takeaway: There are ways to get around iOS’s third-party cookie limitations. Do your research.

9. AUUS (Ad Units of Unusual Size)
Despite unsold inventory rates as high as 85 percent, pacing in mobile remains a challenge. One reason: client concerns about brand halo.

If you are a financial services company, it is perfectly reasonable that you do not want to show up on sites such as Perez Hilton’s.

If you have a wide array of creative including non-Mobile Marketing Association standard sizes, you can avoid having your ads show up on sites from your blacklist, while still making sure they show up on a huge number of safe sites. Pacing is not a problem if you stack the deck.

Takeaway: It is a little one, but worth remembering. Get creative variety. From the get-go. It makes everyone’s lives easier.

10. Love the one you are with
There is a reason why mobile advertising is growing as fast as it is.

Ask the world what are the most important material things in life and the consistent answers are food and shelter, followed by telephony. Humans need to communicate. And they love to communicate.

Takeaway: Mobile is easy to love.

Lara Mehanna is New York-based general manager of DX Mobile at DataXu. Reach her at [email protected].