Mobile

The mobile advertising divide: apps vs. the browser

Zach Kubin is the Director of Client Development at Onswipe.

Media planners just love putting apps in their mobile ad buying plans. But are apps the right focus when it comes to mobile advertising?

Apps receive the lion’s share of attention because, on average, smartphone and tablet users spend more aggregate time with their apps versus their browser. When you dig deeper into the numbers, however, you find that the most popular in-app behaviors include activities like gaming, photo sharing, productivity and social networking.

But when it comes to consuming news and information, touchscreen users clearly prefer the browser. In fact, according to a 2012 study from the Pew Research Center in association with The Economist, the percentage of people who mainly use the mobile browser to access news content jumped from 40 percent in 2011 to 60 percent in 2012. That’s a 50 percent increase in just one year.

So what does the browser-app divide mean for marketers? First, it’s essential to determine the share of your mobile media plan focused on each. And because users act differently in apps versus browsers, it is critical to be laser-focused on the types of ads presented in each environment in order to encourage and produce the most meaningful action.

Creating Relevant Mobile Ad Experiences

The main goal marketers aspire to achieve is a 1:1:1 relationship with the consumer – meaning delivering the right ad, in the right context, at the right time. Known as the “User Need State”, this is difficult to achieve. However, your chances are better when you have a good understanding of exactly where users will be more receptive to your message.

To drive relevance, it’s important to understand behaviors taking place in apps and the browser. Native app games like Angry Birds and Cut the Rope, while fun to play, aren’t the best place to effectively reach Fortune 500 CEOs. To reach the appropriate decision maker that will drive a campaign’s success, it is critical to understand where they’re likely to be more receptive to the message—will it be browsing news and information on the web or gaming in a mobile app?

The Pew study goes on to say that 60 percent of tablet users mainly use the browser to access news, with just 23 percent doing it mostly through apps and 16 percent using both equally. Very few apps beyond Twitter and Flipboard effectively recreate the web browsing experience that enables these tablet users to jump around from news to entertainment to sports and politically driven content. But the reality is that apps like Twitter and Flipboard are geared toward the power user. We can assume that the everyday person is most likely not curating their personalized news and information streams in apps, but as Pew points out, they are consuming the majority of news content mostly in the browser.

The Future of Mobile Advertising

The mobile ad market is moving fast, and 80% of the top 50 major US adbuyers plan to increase their mobile ad budget over the next 12-18 months. This presents a healthy challenge for marketers and media buyers alike to create a new paradigm for online advertising, with higher consumer engagement and greater results.

As recently as 2009 very few brands were thinking about how to optimize the mobile browsing experience. The browser was largely ignored because brands were busy focusing on creating mobile apps instead of optimizing their mobile sites. And because mobile sites weren’t optimized, traffic wasn’t being driven there.

Now that companies are paying much closer attention to their mobile web experience, they have turned to overlaying ads on top of content, creating a parasitic experience where the ad and content have no relationship to each other. So the challenge for brand marketers is to find places where the ad and web experiences are more tightly integrated. Relevant ads need to be created for specific mobile web experiences in a completely viewable, above the fold environment that is consistent with the brand.

The balance of power is moving towards the mobile browser as a productive place for marketers to allocate their ad budgets, so it’s crucial to focus on creating relevant ad experiences for consumers in the browser environment that drive results.

The Time is Now

Mobile users prefer the browser because it offers access to all the content they want, in one place. There is no switching required between different applications for different pieces of information, as all content they need sits within a singular browsing experience.

As a result, mobile advertisers will benefit the most from browser-based opportunities—it’s the best place to reach the fast-growing and lucrative segment of tablet users.

zach kubinZach Kubin is Director of Client Development for Onswipe, a touch publishing and ad platform. Previously he was an account manager at Joule, an international mobile marketing agency, where he helped guide mobile strategy for clients like Dell, Macy’s, and IKEA. Zach created and edits the popular blog What Happens in Media Planning. You can follow him on Twitter @zkubin

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