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05/25/2021

Mobile ads demand mobile thinking

It’s a small-screen world – creative needs to adjust 

by Jon Brand

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, mobile media were playing an increasingly powerful role in consumers’ lives; not surprisingly, media budgets have been following suit. Throughout the day, people return to their smartphone screens again and again – over 60 times in 24 hours, according to one study.   

But when it comes to advertising quality and their effectiveness, smartphones – and mobile devices generally – are too often playing second fiddle to “traditional” screens: TVs and PCs. The truth is that little is actually spent on digital ad testing; simplistic approaches with few diagnostics provide a minimum of information or inspiration to drive stronger creative. 

Driving engagement with overwhelmed consumers

Making the right impression in a mobile context requires a special, dedicated focus. Brand managers, ad creators, and media planners all need to put their mobile thinking hats on, to make the most of mobile platforms on their own terms.

The good news is that GfK’s Ad Fit Optimizer has shown that well-executed ads on smartphones can be as effective as on larger screens. Recent GfK research – focusing directly on how people react to ads in mobile environments – looks at two key aspects of effectiveness:

  • Hook is the ability to grab attention – a particular challenge with mobile ads. While display ads are slightly more likely to grab viewers’ attention on smartphones, video ads are less effective in the mobile universe.

  • Hold is about keeping consumers engaged. Overall consumers are less likely to watch a complete ad on a smartphone (51% mobile vs. 61% traditional) – and among the youngest consumers (ages 18 to 29), only 17% will watch a full 30-second ad on their phones.

Clearly, smartphones represent a special opportunity – and a significant hurdle – for advertisers. The first step is to recognize how different the mobile environment is, and give that difference full attention. Then we can begin to get a clear picture of the do’s and don’ts of smartphone creative.


Jon Brand is Senior Vice President in Marketing Effectiveness at GfK.

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