Exciting times ahead for mobile advertising

Colin Light_5181Author: Colin Light, Partner, PwC China

Walk along a crowded thoroughfare anywhere in the world, and you’ll see a pattern of behaviour that would have been regarded as plain weird just two decades ago: people walking along with their eyes fixed on a mobile device, only looking up to avoid bumping into other pedestrians. What’s more, studies show they continue to scrutinise these devices even when they’re at home watching a larger screen.

The message is clear: eyeballs are being dragged away from print media and larger screens to smartphones and tablets. Naturally, advertising spend is following suit: in the five years to 2018, our Global entertainment and media outlook 2014-2018  projects that mobile advertising will grow at a CAGR of 21.5%.

But this migration involves more than a shift in revenues and devices, which I reflect on in a recent video blog. It also transforms advertisers’ ability to measure effectiveness and returns, by tailoring and targeting ads to the ‘audience of one’ and gaining instant feedback on what consumers do in response to their ads.

However, companies looking to turn this vision into reality face one potentially deal-breaking hurdle: the concerns over privacy that make many consumers hesitant to share personal data – especially when the outcome is pseudo-personal (and sometimes intrusive) mobile promotions.

At PwC, we recently surveyed consumers globally to find out what data they would be willing to share. A hierarchy emerged, ranging from information they’d prefer to keep to themselves (such as social security number), to information they’re willing to ‘trade’ for value (such as gender). 

Mobile advertising strategies
However, a closer look reveals some interesting contradictions between what people say and do. For example, they say they’re unwilling to share personal mobile contacts. But several highly successful messaging apps ask people for access to their contacts on sign-up, and this hasn’t put many users off.

Why the anomaly? In my view, it largely comes down to how you ask the question. “Would you like to receive ads on your mobile every day?” Of course not. But, “Would you like to receive tailored location-based offers and recommendations of what apps your friends are using?” Yes please!

Building on this, we’ve developed an approach to mobile advertising that we’ve termed EI2, because it unites the three attributes of Engagement, Identity and Insight:

  • Engagement – Deep engagement with consumers drives the economic exchange inherent in mobile advertising. Advertisers can build it by providing people with value and a positive user experience, through relevant, convenient offers and messages that reflect their interests and context.
  • Identity – Consumers need to feel the advertiser knows who they are and respects their identity, privacy and individuality. This means enabling them to opt in or out, to decide what they’re willing to share or keep private, and to trust the company not to use their information for anything they haven’t agreed to.
  • Insight – This involves informing consumers about choices made by other like-minded people, and recommending products and services that enrich their lives, driving both transactions and engagement. This might happen once a month or five times a week – but either way, it’s much appreciated.

In our view, mobile advertising that embraces EI2 will be best-placed to generate consumer trust and purchases – creating higher and more measurable value for advertisers in all sectors. 

To explore this topic further, take a look at the full article: Exciting times ahead for mobile advertising: the EI2 route to success – Engagement, Identity, Insight.



Colin is a partner in PwC China and Hong Kong’s Consulting practice with over 15 years’ global experience, specialising in commercial and technology strategy in digital services including social media, mobility, data analytics and cloud services. Read more



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