LSA 2013: What’s Working in Mobile?

This afternoon at the Local Search Association Conference in Las Vegas, a panel of mobile ad companies batted around ideas and examples of where they’re seeing efficacy. The panel, moderated by Greg Sterling, included:

Tim Garcia, Vice President, Business Development, Moasis
Dan Hight, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships, xAd
Tae Kim, Head of Channel Partnerships (Multi-Segment), North America, Google
Michael Rubin, Executive Director Business Development, Mobile, YP

Tim Garcia kicked things off with the notion that local ads that are placed based on inquiry are seeing the most success. In other words, search outperforms display. That plays out in the numbers (including ours) that show mobile local search ad dollars eclipsing display.

Dan Hight expanded the conversation to performance metrics and how they’re measured in mobile. Specifically, xAd looks “beyond the click” to the activities that are prevalent in mobile, conducive to the form factor (i.e. calls) and valuable to local advertisers.

But importantly, there are a few ways that this comes together successfully. It’s not just location based ad targeting but also the ad creative itself, and the proper calls to action. These all have to be applied in concert, and many advertisers or agencies currently aren’t doing that.

Michael Rubin adds that one inhibiting factor to better mobile local ad success is the quality of the location data that ad networks like YP are given to target ads. This is a function of the location signal that app publishers pass along to an ad network — something we covered here.

Tae Kim asserted that success in mobile  will come from looking at more holistic ad campaigns where mobile fits in and supports (and is supported by) other media. It can’t be done in a vacuum. This is philosophically behind Google’s well known recent launch of Enhanced Campaigns.

Additionally, it’s important to use tools like Google’s Ad Extensions. For example, call extensions add click-to-call links in mobile search ads; and location extensions add maps. These are great for multi-location businesses because the closest phone numbers and stores are automatically shown.

Rubin adds that these types of ad localization practices are vital, given that the usage is there. 40 percent of calls and clicks on YP’s local ad network are coming from mobile. Local calls-to-action and conversions will help validate mobile for advertisers he believes.

Currently, usage outpaces advertiser demand.  The way this plays out for local media companies is that most aren’t selling standalone mobile ad campaigns according to Hight. They’re rather delivering leads in a bundled fashion, where mobile is one (almost covert) component.

One could argue, that’s what Enhanced Campaigns is all about. Either way, bundling will accelerate mobile’s adoption among advertisers.  They’ll see  mobile’s ROI after being practically forced into it, while their participation inherently improves mobile ad marketplace economies.

Meanwhile, performance deltas from location targeting could accelerate this shift.  Dan Hight asserts that conquesting is one way this is resonating among location based businesses like car dealers. This is when an ad is shown near one’s competitors to poach their customers.

Lots of these advances in targeting are hoped to move mobile advertising closer to a place where the ad dollars are commensurate with the usage.  Right now, those variables are imbalanced which has caused an oversupply of ad inventory, lower ad rates and a mitigated revenue opportunity.

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