A Key to a Successful Mobile Ad: Don’t Just Distract—Delight

By its nature, advertising is distracting, but that distraction has a value to the viewer. When television viewers began to VCRs and fast-forward through ads, advertisers felt pressure to create more entertaining commercials. These days, I watch the Super Bowl as much for the commercials as I do for the football. Why should the mobile space be any different? 

If anything, it should be more important to add value to your message in the mobility space. To paraphrase an old Steve Jobs quote, you watch TV to turn your brain off, you go to a computer to turn your brain on. These users have opened their devices and are doing something; television and radio are passive.  Our smartphones are little computers, and that makes the distraction of the advertisement much more noticeable.

Companies are finding ways to add value to the viewer in mobile advertising, and its being done in a plethora of ways:

  • SMS blasts
  • advertisements within applications, and
  • applications with no other purpose besides advertising or branding.

A few of my favorites examples come from some of the world’s most innovative consumer-facing companies, and the tactics these companies employ could be replicated to increase your business and/or to improve consumers’ perception of your business.

Advanced Video Experiences

For instance, Apple showcased the use of its iAd platform with a prominent international shoe manufacturer as an example of what could be done with iAd.  Unlike most ads on the web, which will take a user into a standard website designed for the desktop, this  iAd takes users directly into a video experience and then to a fully customized dashboard with options relating to the product as well as the shoe  brand itself.

Interactive Driving Test

The current focus of my ‘car-guy lust’ is for a new luxury grand tourer automobile developed by one of the world’s best-known luxury brands.  While I’ll be lucky to get my hands on a die-cast model of the car, much less even test drive one, I can fill the void with a custom mobile application on the App Store. What makes this app far better than some of the early auto industry promotional applications is its ease of use—which when it comes to apps, isn’t a given. (Early on, I downloaded another carmaker’s app that featured one of its cars in a game, but it was incredibly difficult to keep the vehicle on the road.  I know it’s just a game, but what does that tell a potential buyer?)

This app, however, really sets the bar for auto manufacturers! The app allows users to re-enact a commercial shot with Formula One race car driver Michael Schumacher driving in a tunnel and several other road courses.  The audio in the app is fantastic (as is, I’m told, the sound system in the car itself.) Even though most people downloading this app will never own this car, the app provides a delightful experience and leaves a great impression of the Mercedes brand.

Location-Based Advertising

Foursquare, an application that invites mobile users to  “check in” at their stops throughout the day and become ‘mayor’ of the locations they most frequent (I promise to write a blog devoted solely to Foursquare in the very near future) now allows advertisers to post special deals for users based on their specific location. A few weeks ago, I dropped by my local mall to buy some work out shorts and used Foursquare to “check in” to at a local sport clothing retailer. Almost immediately, I received a notification on my screen that if I “checked in” at a different clothing retailer nearby in the same mall, I would receive a discount for any purchase I made there. I think this is a great way for retailers to leverage location and drive more people in the door.

Delight Your Customers

Whether it’s customizing an advertising experience to specific devices, allowing a customer to take part in a viral ad, or pinpointing value and discounts directly relevant to a user at a specific moment, these companies found ways to add value to the messages they delivered on mobile devices. It’s incredible what can be delivered over a mobile device. And devices, as well as the experiences they’re capable of delivering, are only going to get better as technology improves. Think about what you would do with your mobile advertising if nothing mattered but your message.  Content management and delivery, application development and strong networks are available to deliver your message – you just need to decide how you’re going to delight your viewers.

David Egger IRU Mobility Programs Lead Marketing Manager AT&T About David