09/26/2013 11:15 am ET Updated Nov 26, 2013

Measuring Up Mobile Advertising

As we all know, consumer media consumption habits have shifted so rapidly that many of the traditional advertising mediums have either become outdated, or their usage patterns have changed. Whether an advertiser is looking to market their brand in TV, print, radio, or online, they're finding that mobile has disrupted the whole media consumption ecosystem. Some call mobile a "second screen" to TV or a PC, and I would argue that mobile has become the "first screen". There is one advantage, however, that these other forms of advertising still have over mobile: established standards of measurement.

Time spent accessing content on mobile devices is about equal to time spent on PCs (and in some demographics, mobile has already dwarfed PCs) yet media buyers still need proof that mobile actually drives tangible ROI.

TV, radio, print and online all have metrics that have been embraced by the advertising community as "standards" or "benchmarks". When a brand or an ad agency makes a decision to buy advertising via one of these mediums, they will be able to assess how their campaign performed, and they will have hard numbers that they can point back to when making future advertising decisions.

This is not true with mobile today. In fact, measurement on mobile is where online media measurement was five to 10 years ago. Methods to understand the impact of advertising are still relatively rudimentary, and often rely on small sample sizes, and this is a barrier preventing further investment by marketers. However, mobile measurement can take advantage of the infrastructure created for online measurement, but it has to be migrated, and that's no simple task.

When mobile was in the "experimental phase," a lack of metrics (or different standards of what type of metrics were important) wasn't necessarily seen as a deal breaker, but we are no longer in the "experimental phase." Advertisers are ready to make mobile an integral part of their plans for Q413 and beyond, and we are fixated on of solving this problem through our Omni Measurement Solutions, and providing brands the metrics needed for them to feel comfortable doing so.

If measurement is one of the largest problems in mobile advertising today, we also view it as one of the largest opportunities. Mobile is inherently different than all other advertising channels, and this means that there are actually metrics out there that are only available in mobile.

For example, many consumers use their phones when they are away from home and on the move, and the 24/7 nature of mobile presents an interesting opportunity for advertisers. If you are a retail brand, imagine being able to run a campaign and then see metrics on the impact it made on physical foot traffic into your store, or on the total amount spent at a physical cash register.

Another example is with measuring cross screen behavior. As consumers are increasingly using their smartphones and tablets, they are also more frequently switching screens (i.e. going from a smartphone to a tablet, to a computer and then back to the smartphone). For an advertiser, this can cause an attribution problem, because unless they are confident that the same user saw their ad on every device, they can't be sure which ad was the one that eventually moved the needle.

Once again, while some see a problem, I see an opportunity. With the right type of tracking in place, it's possible to show the impact that a mobile advertisement had on a consumer's online behavior, and eventually, we will be able to tie everything together and provide a holistic view on the impact a single mobile ad made on the entire purchasing process.

Mobile campaigns have a wide range of different goals they are trying to achieve, and they are not just focused on direct response and driving commerce on the device. This makes mobile measurement both more challenging and more interesting than measurement in other mediums.

If I could give one piece of advice to someone who was interested in observing the mobile advertising space from afar, it would be this: follow what's happening in measurement. As improvements get made, dollars will follow and the true impact of mobile advertising will be realized and understood.