Why traditional mobile advertising is fading

Today, article after article points to the ever-increasing investment in mobile advertising and the sensational performance it achieves when compared to other media channels. And because of that, mobile remains the hottest topic across ad land -- for publishers, agencies, and marketing organizations alike.

Having spent the past several years at the helm of mobile on the agency side, and now at Undertone, it concerns me that this focus is misdirected. We know mobile is important, but what makes it important is the concept of mobility. Here's why.

Mobile was never a media channel

For too long mobile advertising has been an attempt to reach consumers on smartphones and tablets simply because the share of time spent with these devices is dramatically increasing. As such, mobile has been treated as a separate and often siloed media channel: Agencies even created mobile-specific teams that frequently bought media from mobile-only networks.
 
But in reality, mobile is a horizontal platform and not a media channel. It's a connective platform that ties together all media channels and should never have been confined to only reaching consumers on-the-go. Marketers realize that the same audience can be reached on both PCs and mobile devices, and are starting to think about mobility across their media efforts rather than just targeting specific devices. Mobility enables brands to develop better messaging based upon the context for the consumer, rather than the device they're using to access a website or app.

Today most mobile specialists at agencies are not solely focused on mobile advertising, but rather have evolved roles that are aimed at helping their clients win at reaching consumers across screens -- no matter how or where that occurs.

Cross-screen advertising is here today -- and quickly evolving

Some maintain that mobile advertising is very different from desktop-based advertising, and so delivering the exact same message across PCs and mobile devices is a huge error. I agree with this school of thought. Mobile devices are certainly unique in how they are used by consumers and the relationships that are formed with each device.

But let's be clear -- as holistic digital solutions continue to enter the market and provide cross-device ad delivery, many of the current challenges of mobile advertising will be solved. Ad products today can already recognize device type, connection speed, location, and a variety of other device sensors. This enables ads to be delivered across screens while also dynamically adjusting the creative to deliver a rich, interactive, contextually-appropriate experience on any connected device.

And this is only the beginning. As technology continues to evolve, new solutions will soon allow marketers to start building cross-screen storytelling narratives. Understanding what message a consumer received, where they received it, and what the next step in the sequence of the brand story should be and how it should be delivered -- that will be here before you know it.

Mobile-specific vendors are quickly disappearing

If you've been following the news within mobile advertising, you've witnessed the fastest period of mobile M&A activity ever. By my count we've seen nine deals in three months.

Rest assured that more mobile M&A deals will continue throughout 2014, as every successful digital technology company will need to offer mobile capabilities in order to survive in the evolving digital ecosystem. And keep in mind that companies will be offering mobile capabilities as a part of a digital suite of solutions -- not mobile advertising as a standalone product.

So what's next?

Mobile advertising as we know it is rapidly changing: Agencies are evolving and shedding an isolated mobile ad buying approach, technology is advancing and offering brands more cross-screen solutions and mobile-born ad networks are starting to dwindle.
 
It's evident that the future of mobile advertising is cross-screen marketing, driven by mobility. We've entered the era of mobility where savvy agencies and marketers are eager to find efficiencies in cross-screen pricing and reduced manpower efforts, in addition to strong performance by consolidating digital advertising dollars within true cross-screen players.

So as traditional mobile advertising fades, we're seeing a whole new sector of wearable devices and smaller digital screens enter consumers' lives offering more choices for entertainment and utility. These devices and screens will create new advertising opportunities and a bright future for mobility.

Sal Candela is VP of mobile strategic sales at Undertone.

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