Could the Creative Bring about the Renaissance of Adtech?

Lavin Punjabi, Co-Founder & CEO, mCanvasMobile ad blocking is at an all-time high in our country. More than 40 percent have mobile ad blockers installed. This makes me ask - do consumers hate ads or do they hate the way they are done? When you dive deeper into the problem, you realize that users don’t dislike the concept of ads. In a study carried out by HubSpot of ad blocker users, 83 percent actually said that they would be ok to see ads if the intrusive ones were filtered out. 63 percent of them interestingly said that most online ads today don’t look professional and are often take their intelligence for granted.

Here’s where Adtech is getting it wrong. There are hundreds of companies that have focused on improving targeting – who, when, where, and another 100 odd focused on easing out the buying and selling of banner ads. Billions of dollars worth of technology is focused on showing ads to people in ad spots they detest. Another research study suggests that 86 percent of the users are just blind to banners. That’s enough evidence to suggest that the most popularly used ad formats today (full screen interstitials, banners and pre-roll videos) are broken.

Because of the broken format, the creative has taken a big hit too. Do you recall any digital ad? I'm certain you recall accidentally clicking on one. The Creative is the soul of an ad. It connects brands with consumers at a direct and often personal level.

Look over briefly at the TV industry - do you remember any ads from here? Sure, there are so many. The iconic Fevikwik commercial where a fisherman caught fish by applying the glue on a stick, the Cadbury’s girl who funnily dances into the cricket field, Aamir Khan’s ‘Thanda Matlab CocaCola’ ad, the list goes on.
Creative storytelling built these brands and etched a place in consumers hearts. Digital ads just don't have that effect. Why?

A well thought out creative targeted to the right user in a non-intrusive format will change the users’ perception of mobile ads

It's simple. Digital creatives are lagging behind because brands and agencies don’t put enough time, energy and love in producing it. This happens because digital allocation (in our country) is always less than 10 percent of the overall media budget. So until digital is given over 30-40 percent of the overall budget, it is going to continue to get bastard child treatment. Till then, TV/Print/Outdoor ads will be re-purposed for Digital.

However, that will change in the near future. It's been proven time and again that media budgets eventually follow eyeballs. Time Spent on digital (mobile in particular) surpassed TV time in 2016 and given the pace of innovation on mobile, that time spent is only going to increase. A study by Mobile Marketing Association and GroupM projected that mobile advertising industry will touch Rs.10,000 crores in 2018. This makes mobile the third largest medium after TV and Print in terms of ad spends. It is evident that brands cannot ignore the rising power of the mobile screen.

Producing mobile creative requires a new approach. The creative has to be visually rich and crisp given the short attention span and on-the-go use. The creative could also integrate the various sensors and features available on the phone to make the brand experience more immersive and engaging. Imagine an AR experience where users could take a selfie and try products on themselves. Or a light VR experience, where a user could be teleported inside a car and pans his phone in all directions to experience the view from the driver’s seat. There are also various motion gestures - tap, swipe, scratch, pinch, flip, pan, and tilt - that could be used to bring out the brand’s message. The audience is becoming more discerning, so the creative has to do more than just say - hey, check out our new product.

A well thought out creative targeted to the right user in a non-intrusive format will change the users’ perception of mobile ads. This may have users rethink their ad blocker choice and that may just bring about the renaissance that Adtech needs.

For example, recently Flipkart ran an interactive mobile advertising campaign for a newly launched phone whose USP was its battery. The creative was built around the anxiety users feel when their phone batteries are running low. The messaging featured typical moments when you don't want your battery running low - like when your old crush calls. The campaign was uniquely targeted to users who had low battery on their phones when the user was exposed to the ad making it contextual. The campaign experienced 16x higher engagement rate than static banner ads. This is an interesting example to show the potential of contextual storytelling among masses which are now highly intelligent and discerning.