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The psychology behind successful mobile campaigns

The psychology behind successful mobile campaigns Evelyn Huynh

Anyone in mobile has played out this scenario: You hear about a client's upcoming rich media campaign, and they've asked to use never-before-seen mobile technology. So your heart goes a-flutter. It's exciting, it's new, and it's unknown, which makes it a little sexy and mysterious. But will it be really effective? To understand rich media effectiveness, we must first understand the audience that is engaging (or not engaging) in it, and the psychology behind what makes it so for the audience involved. This series examines four different psychological criteria that should be addressed at the onset of any mobile campaign's creation.

Impact on mobile ad experiences owing to consumer intimacy with devices

Mobile devices become more robust in functionality with each model that gets released. With more and more fancy features and functionality built into our phones and tablets, consumer dependencies on these devices grow stronger. We have become a tech generation that regards mobile devices as an essential part of our lives, so much so that many have grown strong emotional attachments to their smartphones and tablets.

This attachment is an attribute of developing a fundamental dependence on mobile devices for day-to-day activities that far surpasses basic communication. We use our devices to keep in touch with family and friends, organize our lives, and entertain, and our devices automate these and a myriad of other functions. This applies to most of us, whether we'd like to admit it or not. It's been years since any of us has had to commit the phone numbers of loved ones to memory. But today's mobile phones automate such a wide array of tasks and provide so much more information and entertainment than any 10 other devices did 20 years ago. Consumer dependence on them and intimacy with them has followed along.

According to Nielsen, the majority of mobile users (80 percent) find mobile advertising to be more intrusive than TV advertising. Psychological studies have found that of those users who find mobile ads to be annoying or intrusive, those with strong emotional attachments to their devices tend to have relatively warmer responses towards mobile ads than those who don't. Avid mobile users have relatively short attention spans, so advertising messages that come through have to be clear and eye-catching in order to be effective and appeal to this audience. "Advertisers need to think beyond the one-way communication of your everyday static ad and find new ways to engage the audience in a multi-way, multi-stage interaction in order to effectively engage their audience and shape how they are advertised to," said Nielsen's Eric Ferguson.

Perceived interactivity and its effect on rich media engagement

What does multi-way, multi-stage interaction mean in the mobile world? It means utilizing the flexibility of rich media to enable users to interact with a mobile ad outside of a simple tap-to-action. It takes more than a simple still image to develop and/or enhance the relationship between mobile users and brands. Think about how we build relationships in our own lives: There are generally dialogue exchanges and some give and take responses before we consider ourselves to have built any form of relationship with someone, whether it is as close as a significant other or as distant as an acquaintance. The same general principle applies to mobile advertising user engagement.

Users have to feel as though they are involved in the decision-making process of whether to engage with the ads they consume -- the decision of whether or not they want to build a relationship with the brand. Remember, this device is unlike any other. It's more intimate, so a consumer needs to be invited to participate, not forced to.

When audiences are able to interact and feel engaged with the ads they consume, they tend to receive most of the information related to it and pay more attention to the actual ad content. This is true on any interactive device, but it is essential on mobile devices. Once this rapport is established, the next stage in the process is deciding whether or not they feel the relationship is favorable. The key word to hone in on here is feel. Much of human behavior and human response is a reaction to feelings. If the rich media ad you are running is a robust enough experience that makes people feel good and happy or allows them to have fun, the end result of the positive experience is that ad satisfaction goes up, users develop favorable attitudes towards the brand, and potentially, this drives higher purchase intent.

What defines "successful" rich media execution?

The proper metric to measure the success of rich media executions no longer boils down to something as basic and simple as click-through rate. Click-through rate tells a bland and often inaccurate single-plane story of rich media performance on any device, but this is especially true with mobile because so many clicks are accidental.

Strong rich media ads enable users to interact in a multitude of ways that can bring great value to the overall brand experience. Such robust experiences need to be paired with robust sets of data that measure interactivity touchpoints and engagement in order to tell full, comprehensive stories of successful rich media executions. Longer rich media ad exposure yields higher levels of brand awareness and recall. Utilizing engagement rates allows advertisers to measure unique, non-standard events and activities through standardized sets of data.

Today's interactive ad experiences are nothing like they once were during the "Golden Age" of newspapers and billboards. There are far more complex and immersive ways to reach audiences and drive positive brand experiences through rich media on mobile devices. Understanding specific audiences and how a consumer's emotional attachment to a mobile device affects the ad experiences is crucial to the success of any mobile campaign. Understanding how to properly assess engagement and interactivity through the appropriate sets of data is just as critical to telling the full and, most likely, very interesting story of the mobile rich media experience.

Types of engagement to consider

There are many ways in which advertisers can choose to engage with their audiences through rich media to make people feel more involved in the ad consumption process.

User control
Enabling audiences to customize and drive their own ad experiences is a significant factor in their perception of interactivity. The smartest, most immersive campaigns are the ones that provide longer exposure and higher interactivity to the ad experience. The longer the exposure and interactivity, the stronger the brand recall. The award-winning creative units linked here each transport users beyond their smartphone or tablet with sight, sound, and motion that is catalyzed through their interaction, making the ads more immersive and far more effective.

Touch experiences and utilization of device capabilities
Mobile devices have a multitude of touch experiences and built-in utilities that can help enhance mobile rich media capabilities for advertisers. For example, enabling a banner ad to expand and animate when the device is shaken is a far more unique and immersive experience than seeing a static banner on a screen. A humorous ad that has multiple social media sharing capabilities drives high levels of interpersonal communication and social interaction that would not otherwise be possible with a static display ad. Utilizing the GPS functionality on mobile devices to find the nearest locations of your favorite makeup counter or car dealership cuts down on the number of steps it takes for users to make their way there and helps to increase purchase intent. These are just a few of the many types of functionality that can be brought to individual campaigns.

Humans, by nature, like to have fun. Why not provide the opportunity for them to do so while planting the branding seed? Outside of communication and organization, mobile users rely heavily on their devices to entertain. When the entertainment is a branded experience that highly engages the competitive spirit, it increases interactivity and participation, increases time spent exposed to the ad, and in turn, increases overall brand awareness.


Depending on the audience and the KPIs of a given campaign, the first step toward driving effectiveness is to understand the audience and the psychology that will drive effectiveness (or not). Then bring the interactivity and intimacy of mobile devices to bear with the criteria that this psychology suggests. It's not easy. In fact, it's complex and difficult, but the results can be as amazing as the campaigns are engaging.

Evelyn Huynh is the director of ad operations at Rhythm.

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Evelyn Huynh is the Director of Ad Operations at Rhythm, a premium mobile video technology company, where she has built an award-winning team of operational experts who excel in the strategic management of Fortune 500 ad campaigns. An eight year...

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