The Death Of The Banner Ad

How Mobile Is Forcing Marketers To Look Beyond The Click…

June 7, 2007, was a date that changed the landscape for marketers. As Steve Jobs stood in front of a crowded room of Tech geeks and lovers he held up the first iPhone and said, “Your Life in the Palm Of Your Hand.” Now, many of us who already had a love for our iPods and iMacs were intrigued. I for one thought the idea was cool, yet did not see the revolutionary change that was about to happen. Sure, there were “smartphones” before, but none infiltrated the market like Apple was about to do. In my opinion, the true magic of the iPhone launched that year was the introduction of the App Store. The game accelerated in 2008 as Android was introduced and turned up the heat on the competition.

Mobile adaptation has been rapid, especially for the millennial generation with over a trillion dollars in purchasing power alone. Marketers can’t afford to ignore how Millennials and their predecessors, Gen Z, consume.

In many respects, the changes in marketing in a mobile world have been challenging. Poor connections, limited real estate, laggy processors (compared to desktop), spotty wifi, all led marketers to constantly test ideas and strategies – many of which failed due to a poor customer experience. Mobile application monetization was even more cumbersome. The masses didn’t want to pay for products, so developers slapped banner ads, and even worse, pop-ups throughout their products to keep the lights on.

For marketers trying to reach Millennials, mobile is where our target audience lived so we often paid the inflated price to reach them however we could. Running fully programmatic buys that on the surface felt inexpensive. Yet, when the user’s value was peeled away, we found ourselves sitting in a pool of clickbait with very little connection to the fans we needed most. We got the eyeballs and impressions, but fell short offering the experience that this generation was seeking.

Fast-forward to the new mobile landscape and technology advancements that have opened new doors for marketers. Today, our phones are more powerful than the laptops we praised ten years ago. Video used to always equate to watching the spinning wheel of death as we impatiently decided that the YouTube view was just not worth the wait. Now, video streaming is lightning fast. 1 in 3 Millennials are ditching traditional broadcast TV and instead streaming more from their mobile devices. Video views on mobile were up 55% in 2015. It is not just video views from traditional media. The majority of eyes are locked to videos being created by users. Facebook, Vine, Snapchat, Instagram and the endless list of messaging apps that encourage users to not only consume, but also to create and share the content. That coupled with the fact that the phones in our pockets produce higher quality video than the clunky video cameras we use to lug around.

With these new advancements in mobile consumption and the hurdles for content production being lowered, marketers have stepped into one of the biggest changes in marketing. With the rise of consumption and creation, we have also seen the death of more traditional channels that often sat in our marketing mix. Banner ads, in particular, have suffered. They just don’t work well on mobile – 50% of mobile banner clicks are accidental. Many marketers cling to these budgets because we have gotten accustomed to depending on the precise metrics for modeling that they produce. As we step back and evaluate these users, often we see that the engagement of these acquired users pales drastically from organic. Much of this, in my opinion, has to do with the limited real estate on a mobile screen and, therefore, the dependence on clickbait and blaring CTA. If you obtain a user via tactics like tricking them to click, then in most cases very little positive connection is ever made with the brand and users are more prone to default. Adding to the pain has been the rise in mobile ad blockers, up 41% globally in the last 12 months alone.

With the current decline of mobile banner ads, publishers, in particular, have had to seek new means of monetization. Buzzfeed being primarily Millennial, was a leader in the space. Removing the need for banners, and replacing with lucrative highly creative sponsored content pieces for brands. Other publishers caught on and followed suit. Realizing that they not only were creative experts that could create compelling branded content, but also that they could increase the value of these campaigns by including social media buys for amplification on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and StumbleUpon. These four social media properties excelled at native advertising on mobile and became the perfect means for distribution.

There are a couple of reasons why publisher’s branded content and social-native distribution will be able to thrive in a cluttered marketing environment. First and foremost, it is because these sponsored content deals are naturally mobile optimized. A few years ago every publisher had to shift to enabling mobile consumption, now most of the big players stand tall with best in class mobile web and applications. Sponsored content automatically works within their mobile offering because it mirrors the look and feel of organic content.

Second, because of the reliance on their own audience’s attention and social tools for distribution, publishers are forced to make this content good. It is not like the advertorials of the past that we had to flip through in a magazine or paper. The ones that made us roll our eyes at the outrageous claims and hard sells. No, this new breed of sponsored content is looking to provide value to the customer on behalf of the brands. Often delicately weaving in the brand’s message and/or value proposition, surrounded by entertainment and/or education to the customer reading. Because so many publishers are doing branded content incredibly well, data has proved that Millennials, in general, don’t care if content is sponsored, they just care if it is good.

This is a huge opportunity for marketers. Focusing on the user’s engagement and experience over their impressions and eyeballs. Providing value to potential leads and loyal customers over just taking the clicks they needed and pushing the users aside. When was the last time you heard, “I love that banner ad!” The reality is that for so long we as marketers have been trained to take, now we are learning how to give, engage and build experiences that produce loyal customers.