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Mobile is the new black at Advertising Week Europe


By Erin “Mack” McKelvey

I recently had the opportunity to participate in Advertising Week Europe, the weeklong event that celebrates the intersection of advertising, design and pop culture.

Over the course of three years, I have watched deeper discussions around mobile increase at the show. This year, I moderated a panel in London on March 24 titled, “Mobile is the New Black,” which emphasized that mobile has moved from a “nice to have” to a “need to have.”

The senior panel included Jon Buss, U.K. managing director of Criteo; Greg Grimmer, chief operating officer of Fetch; Ben Maher, U.K. advertising director for Mashable; Chris Ricketts, sales director at The Telegraph of London; and Rebecca Swift, director of creative planning at Getty Images.

We framed the mobile imperative by comparing it to the panel’s title. I challenged the audience to “imagine going to your closet, opening it, and seeing only white, blue and gray outfits. No black. Impossible to imagine, right? Black clothing is a staple to any wardrobe.

“Now think about today’s media plan. If all you see is TV, print and digital, there is clearly something missing, and mobile has emerged as the one consistent that ‘needs to be in every closet’ or in our case, ‘in every media plan.’”

What’s exciting in mobile today
When asked what excited panelists most about the state of mobile advertising today, it was clear that the excitement in Europe matches the United States.

Fetch’s Mr. Grimmer said that he has “never worked in a sector that has been so in demand.” Mashable’s Mr. Maher stated that “technology is continually evolving and providing richer ways to consume content and new data points.”

Criteo’s Mr. Buss said he was excited about the ability to “link online and offline data” and “link with beacons in stores to capture browsing behaviors from engaged users, and then serve relevant and timely advertising.”

The conversation then shifted to what the savviest brands and agencies are doing today.

Mashable’s Mr. Maher summed it up nicely by discussing “planning without borders” where top planners are showing they are media-agnostic, and are more often than not happening to find mobile at the forefront.

Mr. Buss called out the exciting possibilities with mobile commerce, and pointed out that while there is a myth that people do not buy on smartphones, the latest research from Criteo found that mobile devices are now responsible for more than one-third of ecommerce globally, and that number is even higher in the United Kingdom at 44 percent.

Points of contention
One area where the panel did not fully agree was in areas where mobile is struggling today.

When I quoted Steve Jobs’ notorious “mobile advertising sucks” line, Fetch’s Mr. Grimmer said that “Mr. Jobs would not recognize today’s mobile creative landscape” due to today’s stellar mobile creative directors who know how to write, direct and produce short-form video for the smaller screen.

Criteo’s Mr. Buss, on the other hand, was blunt and said that mobile “sadly still sucks” due to today’s “horrible and clunky mobile ad formats.”

The executive was still optimistic about the future of mobile, however, claiming that publishers “may not be seeing huge revenue from mobile right now, but if they don’t invest and improve formats, they will be left behind as more innovative and agile competitors drive better engagement and revenue.”

The Telegraph’s Mr. Ricketts weighed in with what he saw as mobile’s largest issue: comparisons to desktop.

“Mobile already offers better targeting than traditional media – sophisticated cross- platform probability, location, timing, et cetera – but investment is being held back until it can do exactly what desktop offers,” he said.

“This is madness when you consider that U.K. users will spend 11 billion hours with their smartphones this year, the same as desktop.”

While there were some disagreements, in the end, the consensus of the panel should come as no surprise to people that follow the space. There is incredible opportunity in mobile.

Mashable’s Mr. Maher summed up the current state of the industry nicely.

“The increase in mobile comes down to the rapid migration of the audience to the platform,” he said. “This increase in time spent on mobile and its global prevalence is forcing smarter advertisers to have a change in direction.”

WITH ALL THE easy complaints about mobile lobbed from within and outside the industry, I did ask the audience which media channel was perfect. Someone called out “Print,” which drew a good laugh.

The bottom line is that the pace of innovation is moving the industry forward. But the race to keep up with consumer adoption and providing that rich experience is not likely where any of us want it to be.

If consumers are on mobile, and mobile is the new black, media planners who do not integrate mobile into their media plans might be the ones without clothes.

Erin “Mack” McKelvey is founder/CEO of SalientMG, Laurel, MD. Reach her at [email protected]