5 Best Practices for Designing the Best Mobile Ad Experiences

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Within the realm of digital experiences, mobile is as personal as it gets. My mobile phone is with me every day, and everywhere I go. It has the most personal information about me, and I use it constantly to connect to the outside world. It is no shock that on average, people spend about 87 hours a month on their mobile devices in the US, compared to just 34 hours per month on desktops. So when brands try to reach a consumer like me on such a personal device, they better do a great job of it or else it might just end up annoying me.

By 2019, mobile advertising will represent 72% of all US digital ad spending; that is a lot of advertisers spending a lot of money trying to reach mobile consumers. As an advertiser, you want to make sure that your mobile ads give your potential customers the best experience possible, in turn giving you the best results possible.

Designing ads for mobile can be tricky due to several reasons, whether it’s the personal nature of mobile phones or the limited visual real-estate. But there are many ways of making these ads engaging and relevant for people that interact with them.

At Placecast, we have run thousands of mobile ad campaigns for our clients and analyzed them to understand what makes a campaign successful. As a result, here are five best practices that you can apply to your next mobile ad design:

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Design for humans
Sounds pretty obvious, but a lot of designers forget that there is a real live person at the other end of that ad. It is important to get into the mind of the consumer and understand why they would want to click on the ad. You might have the most recognizable brand on the planet, but if the ad is not compelling to the person viewing it, they will not click on it.

A well-designed ad is a combination of the right visuals and the right messaging that addresses a particular need. Whether you are offering a promotion, driving an app download or trying to drive in-store traffic, you want to make sure that the message is clear, easy to read, and easy to act upon.

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Optimize for the mobile environment

Most brands run integrated ad campaigns across several different channels, including print, online, and now mobile. Advertisers will often try to leverage existing content made for desktop and other formats and try to convert it for mobile, which is never a good idea

Ads for mobile need to be created with the device limitations and format constraints in mind. The MMA has a long list of ad specifications around things like dimensions, file sizes, etc. but a few other things to consider:

  • Think about the “clickable” area. Make sure there is enough room for people to tap on the right elements to take action. I also use the term “click” loosely because on mobile there are no clicks, it is rather a touch or a tap.
  • Make use of the various mobile multi-touch gestures such as swipe, shake, pinch, tilt, etc. but make sure it is relevant to the experience you are creating. While it is tempting to add the coolest functionality to make the ad more engaging, if it does not serve the end purpose, it is probably best not to use it.

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Make the ads contextually relevant

We are in the age of personalization, and consumers now expect mobile ads to be tailored to them. Results from a recent mobile ad study revealed that 78% of consumers said they would be happy to receive mobile advertising that is relevant to their interests. Of those, 64% would be willing to provide personal details if that data were analyzed to improve the relevance of the ads.

One way to improve relevance is by using data from the users’ environment to tailor the ad design dynamically in real-time. This can be data such as current weather conditions, Time of day or location data.

  • Weather: A great use case is for a brand like Starbucks that can create two different ad creatives for warm or cold weather, and based on current weather conditions, deliver a hot or cold beverage.
  • Time of Day: Similar to weather, advertisers can use the time of day to determine what promotion to populate within the ad. For example, a brand like McDonald’s can publish breakfast specials before noon, and promote lunch specials afternoon.
  • Location: A recent report shows that 60% Of consumers use smartphone on-the-go while shopping in malls, grocery or retailers, and 56% of users made a purchase because of relevant content. A person’s location is a great indicator of their interest at that time. Other than using location to target users in certain places, advertisers can also include location-based elements in the ad itself. Include things like store locators, maps and dynamic addresses that lead people to your store location. (Learn how to use location data for your next mobile ad campaign!)

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Content quality matters

One of the most important things to think about is the ad content itself. According to a survey of consumers, 73 percent of the mobile advertisements seen in a typical day fails to create a positive user experience. Consumers cited three top ways in which they encounter a poor mobile ad experience: ads obscure screen content, ads are irrelevant, and ads don’t load well.

To ensure a positive experience, you want to think about how you can complement the content that consumers are viewing when the ad is shown rather than disrupting their experience. One way of doing that is using native, branded and sponsored ad formats, where the ad experience is more natural and polite. (Check out our previous blog post on Native Ad format for more information.)

A few things you want to be mindful of:

  • Ad Copy: Use impactful copy that highlights the value proposition in a few words. You want to make sure you give the viewer a reason to click.
  • Images, animations, videos: You want to use the right balance of visuals that not only demand attention but also gives the viewer all the information they need to make that decision to click.

Overall, design ads with a careful balance of creativity, quality and context.

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Drive a clear action

At the end of the day, the ultimate goal of an ad is to get the user to perform some sort of an action, so make sure that you clearly define what that action is, and clearly communicate that to the user within the ad.

Users want to have control over how they engage with the ad and displaying the call to action clearly provides customers with that sense of control. The user engagement, however, does not end at the initial click. You also want to make sure the post-click ad experience is also optimized – whether it leads the user to a mobile optimized website, more product information, a map to the nearest store location or a coupon download. It is important to make the entire experience seamless with minimum friction.

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A negative ad experience can leave a lasting damage to brand perception, so it is important for advertisers to start putting their consumers first and deliver contextually relevant, mobile optimized, high quality mobile ad with a clear call to action.

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