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The secret to nailing a mobile banner ad

There are an enormous number of banner ads in both applications and mobile sites nowadays, meaning that marketers have one chance to get it right in getting a consumer's attention. If they do not, results will suffer and banner ads are likely to get lost in space.

When it comes to mobile banner ads, simply getting users to tap on a unit can be a challenge. The No. 1 piece of advice from experts in overcoming this is understanding the different mindset of mobile users compared to desktop consumers.

?It comes down to understanding behavior and mindset of the audience as much as desired output for the advertiser,? said Brian Cohen, director of digital shopper marketing at HMI?s CatapultRPM, Westport, CT.

?If an advertiser adopts the traditional model of placing banner ads based on target market demographics, and do not deliver on one of these key areas at the right moment, their success level will surely be less than desired,? he said. ?Even more, if you interrupt one experience with a wrong message, it can easily get lost.?

Context is king
Compared to traditional online advertising, mobile requires a completely different mindset.

Consumers are not just only on their devices ? they also expect for their experiences to be tailored and personalized.

Simply targeting an ad based on demographics does not cut it nowadays, per Mr. Cohen.

In addition to relevant content, location can also be used to entice consumers to tap on a banner ad.

For example, if a brand geo-fences a message around a particular store, the ad not only gives users an incentive to come in-store but is also targeted based on a consumer?s location. Broader locations such as ZIP code can also be effective at getting users? attention.

Location-based ads also give marketers new ways to measure performance such as in-store ROI versus the traditional click-through rates that can be misleading to a mobile ad?s overall performance.

Target on mobile
With consumers using both the mobile Web and applications to access content on a regular basis, smartphones and tablets are the only devices that consumers constantly have on hand.

Therefore, factors such as time of day can play an important role in how consumers react to a mobile ad. For instance, an ad for cereal might be most relevant in the early morning hours while an alcohol brand might only want a campaign to run at night.

Although this does open the door for marketing opportunities, it also means brands need to be clever in enticing consumers to tap on ads.

"We think there are two keys to optimizing the banner ? first is to think about the context, which means placing the ad against the appropriate content and potentially even thinking through when the ad is going to appear on a phone," said Tom Limongello, vice president of business development at Crisp Media, New York.

"Second, and most important to get right is to make sure the ad looks as good as the content," he said.

Brands need to use mobile banner ads with a clear objective in mind. Whether it is to build a social media following, download an app or visit a mobile site, a call-to-action needs to be prominently marked on the banner ad to grab a user's attention.

Going forward, more traditional publishers are looking at responsive design templates to cut down on the number of ads. Newer publishers are being influenced by the native ad formats from social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, per Mr. Limongello.

Small-screen design
When it comes to designing for mobile ads, less is more. Instead of pushing multiple messages through a banner ad, it is better to focus on one particular call-to-action.

With consumers using their devices in quick spurts to access information such as news or sports scores, the user experience always comes first in designing mobile ads.

?Mobile devices are often used by consumers in a frequent, transactional way, so developing mobile banner ads to support that style of content consumption will inevitably result in more user interaction,? said Amy Vale, vice president of global research and strategic communications at Mojiva, New York.

With the tremendous amount of mobile banner ads running in mobile sites and apps, ad creative plays a big role in catching a consumer?s eye on a smaller screen.

Therefore, simply repurposing the creative from an online ad to a mobile ad is not the most effective use of the medium. Depending on the brand?s objective, layering rich media or animation on top of an ad campaign can help boost engagement.

As consumers become more comfortable interacting with banner ads, brands and agencies need to step up their efforts to include mobile advertising as part of the overall marketing strategy.

?Consumers are definitely becoming more open to engaging with mobile, but it is up to brands and agencies to ensure they are giving them a compelling reason to tap on an ad. That starts with understanding that mobile is not a smaller version of online advertising simply because it is a smaller screen, and therefore, the media plan and creative execution needs to reflect that,? Ms. Vale said.

?If brands look at how mobile plays into their target audience's day and work with their agencies to develop mobile-centric creative and media buys accordingly, they will undoubtedly see a better ROI on their overall marketing spend,? she said.

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York