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Top 10 mobile advertising campaigns of 2014

L?Oreal, Burger King and Nissan are among the brands leading the way so far this year in taking mobile advertising strategy to the next level through enhanced targeting, greater interactivity and native experiences. 

While mobile ad budgets continue to grow, too many campaigns are simply shrunken down versions of a desktop program. However, towards the middle of 2014, there was a flurry of activity from big brands pushing the enveloped on mobile creative and tactics.

A big focus in 2014 was on moving beyond location to leverage a range of data available about consumers for more targeted strategies. Additionally, brands added uniquely mobile interactive elements and crafted impactful native experiences.

Here are the top 10 mobile advertising campaigns of the first half of 2014, in alphabetical order.

In June, Burger King began testing a way to deliver mobile coupons to consumers inside a geofence using a self-serve ad platform.

The ads promote the chain?s breakfast menu and are appearing on premium mobile sites such as Pandora. The ad unit itself exists as an overlay on top of the site or app being browsed, meaning consumers are not redirected to another site when they click on an ad.

By creating, deploying and measuring geotargeted rich media mobile ads itself instead of working with multiple vendors, Burger King is setting the stage for both a bigger commitment to mobile advertising and a pivot away from traditional banner ads.

The test is being conducted at five locations using FunMobility?s Mobile Engagement Platform, which has built-in audience targeting capabilities. It entails consumers inside a one-mile geofence receiving a coupon that can be saved to their devices.

The ads are being deployed as part of an A/B test comparing their impact against  standard banner ads using comparable creative, offers and audience targeting.

The History Channel and on-demand media streamer Netflix were a few initial experimenters to try native experience ads that appeared on publishing Web sites and took over the user?s entire screen.

The ads initially showed some success, garnering an average view time of 57 seconds. Delivered in partnership by international media and marketing solutions company Gannett and New York-based SaaS analytics company Moat, these particular ads, appearing on, showed the brands? reliance on native advertising.  

When the learnings from a campaign launched last year by JetBlue revealed significant differences between smartphone and tablet users, the brand fine-tuned the next leg of the ongoing effort this spring to provide a clear differentiation between smartphone and tablet ads.

JetBlue?s ?Air on the Side of Humanity? campaign uses a combination of long-form video, messaging and geofencing to tout the airline?s positioning as making traveling more enjoyable. The campaign was deployed in the Boston, New York and southern Florida markets.

The Air on the Side of Humanity campaign was singled out by Mobile Marketer last year as it was the first brand example of leveraging a voice-activated mobile ad.

In the updated version, interstitial ads were delivered inside a geofence around public transit centers. On smartphones, the ads focused more on brand consideration and less on sales in deference to how smartphones are frequently used for travel research.

On tablets, the ads featured a rich media game as these users have longer periods of time to spend interacting with content. Additionally, tablet users on Hulu and CBS viewers saw long-form video from the brand..

Beauty marketer L?Oreal Paris recently incorporated GumGum?s photo recognition technology to pick up on the hair colors of consumers in photos and personalize ads for its Ombre hair color line based on a consumer?s own hair color.

The campaign is an example of how marketers are looking for ways to personalize content on mobile in order to make it relevant for users and, hopefully, more responsive.

The campaign, which is being delivered across desktop and mobile, takes advantage of GumGum?s technology to detect the hair color of people in photos among the editorial content of its partners, such as Parade and In turn, a corresponding ad will be delivered directly to the consumer. For example, if dark hair is detected, then the technology may deliver an ad for dark hair-coloring products. 

 An in-image ?Slider? unit enables all of Ombre?s color products to be included when ads appear over photos unrelated to hair. Instead of a single product being shown, the Slider tool places a number of personalized products in front of consumers and they are able to slide through the list of products.

In a stark change from McDonald?s typical flashy mobile ads that pack multiple calls-to-action and graphics into interactive ad formats, this spring the chain ran a new native ad campaign touting the origins of its coffee drinks.

The mobile ads ran within the mobile sites of publishers including Time Inc.?s Real Simple and Hearst?s Elle. With the burger chain struggling with same-store sales declines, the native strategy is an example of how the brand is trying to appeal to important younger consumers on mobile.

Younger consumers are most likely to ignore banner ads, with is why McDonald?s and other brands are increasingly looking for how meaningful ways to insert sponsored content within the flow of the editorial or entertainment content these consumers are already engaging with.

The McDonald?s ad resembled a piece of editorial content and read, ?This Is Where Your McCafé Comes From.? A second line of copy indicated that the ad was sponsored by McDonald?s. 

A click-through on the ad expanded to show a 30-second YouTube video showcasing how McDonald?s coffee is made through a time-consuming and laborious process with arabica coffee beans.

Buttons underneath the ad encourage consumers to share the content via email, Twitter and Facebook.

In a reflection of how savvy marketers are catering mobile ads to take advantage of the devices? unique characteristics, Nissan recently leveraged a new tablet ad unit that enabled viewers to interact with the brand?s video in-stream via tappable hot spots.

The 60-second video ad promoting the 2014 Nissan Rogue ran across Juice Mobile?s network and tallied up a 78 percent completion rate and a 93 percent engagement.

Nissan was the first to test drive Juice Mobile?s new ad unit, which enabled viewers to gain insight into the features of the Rogue and enhance the experience by tapping on five different hot spots.

The unit was designed to provide more of a two-way communication between the brand and a consumer.

The mobile campaign built on a TV ad for the Rogue called Winter Warrior that showed the car battling evil snowmen in a campaign designed to break through in the competitive compact SUV category while underscoring the need for a powerful vehicle to tackle Canada?s cold winters.

Nissan partnered with Juice Mobile and OMD on the campaign, which ran in Canada.

The mobile ad reuses the TV spot and makes it interactive via five hot spots, with content highlighting statistics on winter weather and snow safety.

A prompt telling the user that the ad is interactive is shown first.

When viewers click on a hot spot, they see content further bringing home the message of the ad. In one example, when users tap on a hot spot, a message appears over the video explaining that the lowest temperature ever officially recorded in Canada and in North America is -63 degrees Centigrade on February 3, 1947 at Snag, Yukon.

Brooklyn-based Riot New Media Group tested a native ad feature, proving that native ads are of appeal to publishers big and small.

Infinite Scroll, powered by feed monetization solutions company Sharethrough, allows publishers the flexibility to control the location and delivery cadence of their desktop and mobile inventory. While Facebook and Twitter popularized this monetization strategy as mobile and in-feed content consumption has grown, publishers of all sizes are giving these ads a try.

Universal Pictures leveraged a new photo-editing application to target a specific audience of younger females for new movie "Endless Love," and the campaign resulted in more than seven million engagements and more than 10,000 hours of total brand-engagement time.

The romantic drama particularly appeals to the segment of consumers who use photo-sharing apps, so Universal leveraged the Aviary app to hit the right audience. The app lets users edit photos, and for this campaign users could add Endless Love themed stickers, frames and filters to their photos.

The campaign is a good example of how brands can leverage mobile apps to drive awareness with a key audience in a nontraditional way. 

Universal?s "Photo Valentine" campaign let consumers use a collection of branded photo-editing tools to send Valentines from selfies or other photos. The campaign launched on Jan. 21 within the Aviary app. 

Universal worked with Aviary, Ignited and Millennial Media for this campaign.

Some of the content that consumers could add to photos included film-inspired word art and embellishments for designing valentines as well as frames and filters for adding a finishing touch. 

Consumers could also insert an image of Endless Love?s Alex Pettyfer and superimpose him into their photos.

The University of California has been testing native advertising on online magazine source and has seen a strong response on social media with one story receiving more than 7,000 likes on Facebook.

Through the use of Slate?s internal agency SlateCustom, and native advertising platform Polar?s MediaVoice, the University ran a series called Breakthroughs, which aimed to raise awareness around research conducted on the University system?s various campuses. While native ads have been known to fit conveniently in between editorial content and not cause interruptions for the reader, Slate?s native programs have garnered encouraging results, while some campaigns have seen an average time spent per user of more than 3 minutes and up to five minutes on mobile. 

WWE ran advertisements on the mobile version of its streaming online video network, claiming Pepsi, Mattel, Kmart and other big brands among the advertisers it landed upon initial request.

The brands that advertised on the 24/7 WWE Network in 2014-2015 also included Mountain Dew, 2K Sports and Pure TalkUSA. The announcement reflected WWE?s determination to turn its ability to reach audiences on a large number of viewing platforms into a revenue generator that will pare its financial losses.

Final Take
Caitlyn Bohannon is an editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York