Smaller-Screen Creative: Why Smartphones & Tablets Aren't Created Equal

tablet-smartphone-graphicThe super-speed growth in smartphone usage and the cultural shift therein is old news at this point, but this past holiday season marked an enormous turning point in mobile technology adoption. U.S. tablet ownership doubled over the holiday season which means about 10 percent of the population was gifted a tablet. This milestone, while exciting, reveals a major missed opportunity in mobile advertising.

The Mobile Invasion

To say mobile snuck up on us is an understatement and companies large and small, as well as agencies, are scrambling to catch up to both the market and user expectation. For this reason, mobile advertising has been approached the same way online campaigns are planned, which leaves a lot to be desired in user experience leading to lack of engagement and ultimately poor ROI.

Tablet and mobile user expectations differ greatly. While both are still “mobile”, their size, design, and functionality have carved out very specific user behaviors.

Smartphones for example are sold with data and calling plans, while only one in 10 tablets have a cellular connection. Tablet usage is popular in locations where Wi-Fi access is available, be that a coffee shop or even at home, while mobile phones can be used wherever a cell or wifi signal is available. It is for these reasons that early indications show tablet user behavior tends to mimic that of desktop over the always connected, pocket-sized smartphone.

Great Expectations

Instead of competing, these devices complement each other and so too can the advertising displayed. Tablet users enjoy a more relaxed browsing experience than smartphone users which makes digital magazines and streaming video extremely popular on the larger-screen devices.

A study by Bonnier revealed that tablet users appreciate ads that are not only relevant, but beautiful, as they display more seamlessly with the higher resolution activities enjoyed on tablets. Those participating in the study positively described well-created advertising as “fashionable”, “artistic”, and “informative”.

When utilizing a smartphone to browse, there is typically a much more urgent need for relevant information and ads as users are typically online to fulfill an immediate need. In fact, recent research from Bing shows that 70 percent of mobile users transact within an hour of a mobile search being conducted. But that doesn’t mean advertisements are any less important in the space.

A sense of urgency for information creates a very different relevancy in ad creative on smartphones. Instead of the more artistic, leisure-based advertising expected with tablets, smartphone creative is more effective when it is fast loading, easy to read and includes location-based information with clear calls to action. In fact according to HopStop CEO Joe Meyer, location-based mobile ads on their app and mobile web are seeing 20 times more click through activity than their desktop banner ads – a key reason why the same online campaign won't translate effectively to either mobile space.

Get Creative

Tablet and smartphone advertising creates a whole new area for designers to get creative. Instead of limiting the creative experiences to the size of the “box” where they’ll be displayed, rich media campaigns allow for a more engaging experience.

Though smartphones are the smaller of the two mediums, there is more than enough ad space and user attention to warrant more than the typical static offering. Experiences making their way to the smaller screen include:

  • Full-sized graphic display.
  • Expandable creative with multiple engagement levels.
  • Pre-click animation.
  • Video clips.

Creative should be chosen specifically for the audience and the app or browser placement, allowing for quick customization for each publisher – an important capability in optimizing any mobile campaign for ROI. But even the greatest creative should stay true to the users’ expectations.

Ads should provide local relevance and direct calls to action. Click to call, map and driving directions, coupons or social feedback functionality are all quick and direct actions that mobile creative can drive.

Tablet advertising has the space and user attention span for some additional creativity. Examples of popular tablet creative includes graphic and video interstitials (full-screen, fully functional ads than can open in-app or browser), photo galleries, and expandables, and animated banner ads.

The venue of each ad placement determines how creative a campaign can get, but the most successful seem to be those that blend seamlessly with the browser or app environment, while grabbing user attention with interactive elements and bright graphics – a fine line to walk.

Though advertiser adoption of mobile-specific campaigns for either smartphone or tablet devices has been slower than user growth, consumers insatiable desire for the next best mobile gadget is forcing big brands, SMBs, and their agencies to not only catch up, but move outside their comfort zone when creating relevant ad experiences within each medium.

Mobile ad spending is projected to reach $2.61 billion this year. Along with the expected increase in spending, the shift to “sexier” mobile ad creative has its own trajectory, with video and rich media headed toward an increase of more than 50 percent by 2015.

In these fast-paced mobile spaces, constant analysis and adjustment of campaign placement and creative is necessary to stay relevant, and strive toward optimal ROI.

As we learn more about user behavior regarding mobile search, it will allow advertisers to better display ads based on much more than the location and relevancy of the ad, but how users prefer to digest and engage in the ad experience across multiple venues. The possibilities are endless, but until advertisers and researchers pay mobile the attention it deserves and meet the demands of a changing consumer culture, the landscape will remain largely undiscovered.

About the author

Monica Ho is Vice President of Marketing at xAd. Based in New York City, Monica is responsible for developing and leading the marketing functions at xAd, as well as overseeing the company’s communications and strategically positioning it in the mobile-local marketplace. One of the largest local-mobile ad networks in the U.S., xAd ranks and delivers ads based on nearly 30 relevance factors, including a consumer’s actual location, preferences and search behaviors.

Monica’s tenure in the industry includes 12-plus years of local marketing and advertising, including a solid foundation in online advertising, sales, strategy and account management. Prior to xAd, she served as Senior Vice President of Marketing & Strategy at TMP Directional Marketing, where she helped launch a digital-marketing division called 15miles.

Well regarded in the space, Monica is currently active on the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s (IAB) Local Search Committee and the Mobile Marketing Association’s (MMA) Research Committee. She is also an occasional presenter at industry conferences and trade shows. Currently, Monica lives on Long Island with her husband and two children.