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Home Depot spruces up mobile native ads with deep linking

As an unusually cold winter winds down, Home Depot is shrewdly using  mobile to reach consumers? whose minds are turning to home improvement projects with native ads while simultaneously experimenting with the effectiveness of deep links. 

Two ads appear in the mobile news feed on Huffington Post, one promoting a limited-time offer on carpet home installation services and the other, products for refreshing cabinets and bathrooms. Tapping through on the former brings users directly to a mobile-friendly page on the Home Depot site listing carpeting products available at a nearby store while the latter links to the home page of the site. 

?Home Depot is definitely testing which works better,? said Esha Shah, manager of mobile and strategy at Fetch. ?Home Depot is being very scientific in their approach to spring home improvement advertising. 

?They have created a hypothesis about how each ad will affect viewers,? she said. ?Will the ad that links directly to the product selection page drive more sales than the ad that links to the home page? 

?By differentiating the creative aspects of their ads, the platform they run on and the page the ad links to, Home Depot can more precisely test which ad formats achieve the best results, and improve their campaign accordingly.?

Room for improvement
Home improvement marketers such as Home Depot have traditionally targeted consumers with ads in the spring as this is when many begin planning the projects they want to work on during the upcoming months. 

By updating this strategy for mobile, Home Depot is able to reach consumers where they are increasingly spending time. 

?Spring and summer are both good times of the year for marketers such as Home Depot to reach mobile users with messaging about projects,? Ms. Shah said. ?Spring is a time when people are gearing up for summer activities and home improvement projects are a big part of this. 

?By marketing to people's natural desire to work on their homes and gardens as the weather gets nice, brands can prove themselves to be relevant and useful to their (potential) customers' daily lives,? she said. 

The use of native advertising on mobile is growing as it provides a more seamless experience than banner ads, which can be disruptive for users. While it is still early day for native advertising, early learnings suggest that users find native ads more appealing and less intrusive. 

Huffington Post, which reached 115 monthly unique visitors last summer, has an in-house studio that works with brands on developing their native campaigns. In the past several months, it has attracted marketers such as Lysol, Levi?s, Schick and Crocs with native ads appearing in its mobile news feed. 

With one of the Home Depot ads offering a deep link into the retailer?s site while the other directs readers to the home page, the retailer will likely compare results to see which works better with mobile users. While such testing is crucial on mobile as the space continues to evolve, not a lot of marketers conduct this kind of research. 

Building a mobile strategy
The mobile ad campaign is the latest example of how Home Depot continues to build its mobile marketing strategy. 

In February, Home Depot showed that it is a force to reckon with in leveraging mobile in-store to drive sales with the introduction of the next generation of a smartphone designed specifically for store associates (see story). 

 In 2013, Home Depot made a bid to win over college football fans with a mobile gaming application that let consumers challenge their friends and family in games for a chance to win prizes (see story). 

?Home Depot is noticing specific behavior among its consumers: the spring cleaning vibe,? Ms. Shah said. ?They are running three different creative versions of their ads: one for paint, one for cabinets and one for carpet. 

?By having three different versions, they will be able to test the performance of each piece of creative and evaluate their effects,? she said. ?For each ad, Home Depot could measure engagement, ROI or KPIs to test if each version is achieving the desired results. 

?In addition, Home Depot is running these ads on both desktop and mobile, so they can further test ad performance on different screens. Home Depot could improve their ads by making them more interactive; perhaps when the viewer clicks on the ad, it will reveal a carousel of related Home Depot products. The more interactive an ad is, people will feel more engaged and connected with the brand and the product.?

Final Take
?Chantal Tode is senior editor on Mobile Marketer, New York