6 Reasons Why Mobile Ad-Blocking Is A Non-Starter for MNOs

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Mobile Ad-Blocking in the Network? Six reasons it’s a non-starter for MNOs
Andrew Darling


Mobile operator Three announced just before MWC in Barcelona that it plans to deploy ad-blocking technology network-wide, meaning users can opt-in to block ads on mobile Web and in-app, using technology from Israeli company Shine, which Three is an investor in.

The mobile operator is introducing the technology in the U.K. and Italy in the next few months ahead of a wider rollout to its 87 million global users. Tom Malleschitz, chief marketing officer at Three U.K., said that the goal is to give customers more “control, choice and transparency” over the ads they see.

The PR talks a good game about privacy and control, but is divorced from reality in several important ways. There are many reasons why trying to fix these issues in the network will never work:

  • First, 50-90 percent of smartphone use, and probably 90-95 percent of tablet use is over WiFi – and almost exclusively WiFi not provided by mobile network operators. Therefore, consumers will still get ads on their phones most of the time.
  • Second, the fastest-growing part of mobile advertising is in-app. And while some in-app traffic might be block-able, the “native” ads such as Facebook’s in-timeline ads won’t be. Facebook blends them in at the server, and encrypts it all. That’s not going to change, apart from becoming ever more-sophisticated.
  • Third, people who really want ad-blocking are likely to do it themselves, either with an app or browser-capability, or perhaps even in the OS. That way they can block ads on WiFi too.
  • Fourth, any network-level solution is held hostage to future modifications in Android and iOS which offer work-around options for advertisers. That might not be a bad thing, in that it could cut down on some of the worst pop-up offenders or most-egregious “cookie monsters”, but it won’t reduce the overall amount of ads.
  • Fifth, advertising and B2C engagement is changing anyway. Some of it is moving to apps, and some is moving to ads/interactions in messaging platforms e.g. ‘conversational commerce.’
  • Sixth, it risks all manner of embarrassing or legally-questionable side-effects. There will be false positives (blocking things that aren’t ads) and false negatives (failing to blocks ads at all). What happens when Operator A blocks an ad from Operator B, and the competition authorities take a dim view? Or blocks a government ad for submitting tax returns on time, or a charity’s disaster appeal? Put your PR and legal teams on danger-money….

The bottom line is that screaming headlines in stories about “the risk to Internet companies’ business models” are basically nonsense.

Yes, there are some possible upsides here. We could see a proportion of the nastiest pop-up ads being squashed, which is a good thing in most users’ eyes. But will that just shift mobile advertising to other inventory types or channels? And maybe for some very low-end users, in markets with low-end data plans and a preponderance of web vs. app traffic, it could make a worthwhile difference.

But for everyone else, I think it’s hugely overhyped. It’s unlikely to stop more than single-digit percentage of overall data traffic per user.

There’s a huge set of “gotchas” for the idea that mobile network operators can make a meaningful difference, given WiFi and in-app ads. Yes, it makes for fun controversial headlines and might allow telcos to stick another metaphorical finger up at net-neutrality. But it’s a sideshow, not something that will give Google and the rest of the mobile advertising any major industry sleepless nights.

Helping brands to win back audience trust

Instead, the industry must focus on delivering greater value for consumers by ensuring content is perfectly matched to their needs, and mobile data provides marketers with exactly the right insight to do so. Offering a detailed overview of consumer habits and activities, mobile data can be used to deliver effective, personalised content to consumers at the most opportune time and place — making it a key weapon in the battle against ad blocking.

Targeting based on accurate data

Mobile data is already facilitating better audience understanding and becoming coveted currency across the digital marketing industry as a result.

Consumers do not appear to object to advertising, with 71% of ad block users open to being served ads that meet acceptable criteria or are whitelisted. It is ads considered to be visual clutter, due to poor quality and irrelevance (cited by 64% of users), that drive consumers to block ads on mobile.

Delivering personalised content in real-time

Effective use of mobile data, particularly mobile location data, can help address this issue. With accurate data as a foundation, marketers can improve the efficiency, accuracy, and relevance of campaigns — delivering tailored content for the right individual, at the most appropriate time.

Speed is essential to capture consumer attention in the fast-paced digital world, yet marketers must engage their audience at the right time, which is not necessarily as soon as they look at their smartphone. By understanding the movements of consumers, mobile location data can highlight the best times to serve marketing messages, without being interruptive.

For brand marketers, this insight could drastically reduce the wastage of ads received at times when they are unlikely to be effective and boost engagement with ads delivered at exactly the right moment. For instance, mobile location data that shows consumers frequently topping up their shop mid-week could be extremely useful to food and drinks brands keen to optimise sales of seasonal produce in the run-up to Christmas.

Knowledge of the location of a consumer, their inclination to purchase, and their habitual activity can inform relevant, engaging marketing that transcends channels and devices. Mobile location data that shows a commuter regularly uses their smartphone on the way home and switches to their tablet once they arrive will provide a brand with the necessary knowledge to serve tailored cross-device messages that complement each other and reach the recipient at the optimal time.

With adblocking narrative likely to continue gaining headlines throughout 2016, marketers need to reflect on how, in the year ahead, the ad blocking battle can be won. By leveraging the growing pool of mobile data, brands can utilise actionable consumer insights to tailor campaigns across channels and ensure consumers are delivered compelling, relevant and timely content that they won’t want to block.

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Andrew Darling is Communications Director at Blis. He is responsible for Blis’ global communications and PR activities, as well as marketing operations in APAC. Andrew is a seasoned tech marketing and communications expert, Chair of the IAB SG Mobile Committee and former Telecoms, Media and Technology journalist.
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Partner Spotlight: Q&A with RSi’s Ansa


Partner Spotlight: Q&A with RSi’s Ansa

Question 1: How long have you been at RSi and what is your role?
For the past three years, I have been responsible for creating and scaling Ansa, a web-based solution from RSi – Retail Solutions, Inc., that has enabled over 75 of the world’s largest CPG companies and their agencies to build, measure and maximize the performance of their shopper marketing campaigns running in support of the nation’s leading retailers. I am responsible for all aspects of business development, partner and agency relationships and the overall revenue growth of Ansa.

Question 2: How does RSi help solve marketer challenges?
Shopper marketers’ biggest challenge is to connect their online campaigns to in-store results. RSi’s Ansa solution provides the intelligence they need, based on daily, store-level POS-data from the largest US retailers in order to plan, target, and measure the impact of their shopper marketing campaigns. Retail Solutions Inc. has partnered with the leading ad networks in Shopper Marketing, such as Blis, to make Ansa’s automated analytics available for the world’s largest CPG companies and their agencies. To measure and maximize their digital ad campaigns, all they need to do is ask for Ansa inside their next campaign.

Question 3: What benefits does the partnership with Blis bring to buyers as well as the adtech ecosystem?
With RSi’s Ansa solution, building, dynamically optimizing, and reviewing attribution measures for every digital ad campaign has never been so simple. Here is how it works:
1. STORE-LEVEL TARGETING: automatically get from Ansa your store targeting data as store addresses, lat/longs or by Ansa Digital ZIPs to identify stores with the greatest sales potential prior to launching hyper-local media.
2. IN-FLIGHT OPTIMIZATION: see in real-time how sales are trending in your targeted stores vs. a 52-week historical average, and get access to dynamic optimization lists that can guide budget reallocation.
3. MEASUREMENT & INSIGHTS: get access via the online portal to end of campaign analysis just days after the media campaign is over. Visualizations give you a standardized set of analytics, such as sales lift, incremental dollars and units, confidence level, weekly lift, characteristics of high performing stores, etc. Prove and improve your media to help you fine-tune strategies for your future campaigns.

Question 4: What are use cases for the Blis + RSi partnership? (Please provide a few examples from different verticals).
If you are a shopper marketer, maximizing your budgets, understanding performance of your marketing tactics and generating key learnings from those marketing tactics are tasks that are essential to your business.

Running a digital marketing campaign with Blis, and Ansa’s daily, store-level sales intelligence helps make that extremely for the CPG community and shopper marketers specifically.

For existing products, Blis campaigns using Ansa targeting can reach a targeting efficiency of 2:1 vs. campaigns that do not use Ansa store-level targeting thereby ensuring that every dollar is spent driving sales to your most important retailer locations.

Blis campaigns optimized with Ansa typically identify and heavy up investment around 16% of stores that are trending significantly ahead of the average store during a campaign and identify and decrease investment around 14% of stores that are trending significantly behind the average store, therefore ensuring that your budget is being optimized surrounding stores that are over-performing during a given campaign.

After each Blis campaign, Ansa automatically generates measurement of Featured Item Lift and Halo Item Lift at both the total event and week levels. Results are completed 5 business days after the end of each campaign and allow you to learn quickly and improve continuously, all at an amazingly affordable price.

Question 5: What shopper marketing measurement trends do you predict for 2018?
Optimization in-flight based on store sales trends during campaign. Optimizing on engagement, intent and / or clicks may be ok for some campaigns but more and more frequently shopper marketers are tasked with driving sales at their most important retailers. And understanding how their marketing tactics performed 5-6 weeks after a campaign has finished is just not fast enough anymore in today’s fast paced world and puts media providers at a severe disadvantage. By utilizing automated reporting that allows Ansa partners like Blis to understand and optimize their media in-flight based on daily, store-level POS sales data you now empower your media partner to act on supporting the stores that are driving your product sales which can ultimately provide a powerful boost to a shopper marketing campaign.

Question 6: If there was one piece of content you think every marketer should read, what is it?
(Other than this blog post of course!)

Think with Google and Facebook IQ are two fantastic sources of resources. Articles, trends, case studies, POVs, insights, etc… pretty much everything you need to read to keep you up-to-speed in this very fast-paced environment.

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Meet, Greet and Keep: How Mobile Can Help Brands Throughout the Sales Funnel


Meet, Greet and Keep: How Mobile Can Help Brands...

Our mobile devices give us more than just a way to call or text friends and family: Today, they are our maps, books, radios, and miniature shopping malls. We turn to them for news, entertainment and answers. And from dawn till dusk, we keep them at our sides like our most faithful companions.

So it’s no wonder mobile devices have become integral to an advertiser’s ability to reach their ideal audiences at every stage of the sales funnel. Here’s how brands can employ effective mobile advertising strategies to acquire, engage and retain customers.

Win Over New Customers

One of the best ways for advertisers to identify new audiences is to see where they shop. But without access to a competitor’s first-party purchase data or information about their website traffic, how can advertisers find this out?

Mobile devices provide the answer. By revealing where consumers go, mobile location data can tell brands which consumers spend their time browsing similar products at a competitor’s store. Let’s say Target wants to reach out to consumers who usually shop at Walmart. They can use location data to identify—then target—those who frequently visit the competitor yet still live near a Target store.

But brands need to be careful before jumping to conclusions about consumers. Real-time location data provides important insights, but they can be strengthened when paired with historical location data.

For example, just because someone visits a high-end boutique like Chanel, it doesn’t mean that person has the budget to shop there—they could just be browsing. How can an upscale fashion brand find out which of those Chanel visitors are actually potential shoppers? Here, historical location data can help. It can reveal, for instance, which of those visitors go to private airports a few times a month or regularly visit Giorgio Armani or Versace stores. Chances are, these consumers will be a better bet for the fashion brand seeking to acquire new customers.

Keep Them Interested

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? For most of us, it’s look at our phones to turn off our alarms before checking the weather and scrolling through our Twitter feeds. And throughout the day, we continue to stare down into the faces of our mobile devices: checking the news on the train, sending an email between meetings, or watching videos from our living room sofas.

In order to engage consumers on the devices we use day in and day out, advertisers will need to serve ads that make sense for the consumer depending on where they are during the day. To do this, advertisers must first ask the question: What do consumers want to see on their mobile devices and when? Consumers spend a third of their time online watching videos, for instance, but they aren’t going to watch a 30-second video ad while walking down the street.

To boost engagement, brands can use knowledge about a consumer’s historical and real-time whereabouts to reach out at the time and place that will produce the greatest level of engagement. To effectively grab the attention of a consumer that’s out and about, a banner ad may work best. Later that evening, when the consumer is at home using a tablet or laptop, a longer video on a larger screen may work well.

Inspire Loyalty

How can brands make sure they retain the new and existing customers they’ve worked so hard to gain? They must first recognize and show appreciation for their most loyal customers.

Most advertisers identify loyal customers by looking at newsletter subscriptions and online purchase histories, but they may be missing other valuable customers who prefer to shop in stores. By identifying devices that frequently visit a brand’s store location, advertisers can make sure they are recognizing—and thanking—all their biggest fans. When an existing customer comes into a store a certain number of times, for example, advertisers can deliver a thank-you message—perhaps offering the loyal customer a generous coupon to redeem in-store.

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Retailers’ Golden Ticket to Reviving Brick and Mortar Stores


Retailers’ Golden Ticket to Reviving Brick and Mortar Stores

Interested in understanding how to connect mobile experiences to physical stores? Or how mobile can be the extension of a retailer’s store? Maybe you’ve wondered about the new Cost-Per-Visit metric? Look no further. Blis’ location data experts will be answering these questions on a weekly basis over the next few months in our ‘Retail Series’ which aims to equip retail marketers with the right insights and top tips to stay ahead of the game.

Following its decision to buy e-commerce company Jet.com last year, Walmart recently agreed to acquire Bonobos, a retailer with a strong online presence and generous shipping policies. If these moves weren’t sign enough that the physical and digital retail worlds are merging, Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods is the ultimate wake-up call.

Retailers everywhere are realizing that while brick and mortar stores are still critical, they’ll need a strong digital strategy to keep them filled with happy customers. Mobile devices are retailers’ golden ticket to connecting with consumers and reviving in-store shopping.

Understanding Consumers though Mobile

Whether they are going to work or going shopping, consumers carry their phones with them wherever they go. As a result, mobile devices provide retailers with a constant stream of valuable consumer insights. GPS and Wi-Fi data can tell retailers, for instance, whether a consumer is at a desktop at work, connected to Wi-Fi at home, or walking past a retailer’s store.

Beyond real-time location data, retailers can use historical location data to understand a consumer’s habits. For example, some consumers might visit a luxury jewelry brand on Fifth Avenue just to browse, even if they have no intention (or monetary means!) of buying. Thus, for that specific retailer, in-store visits may not indicate ideal customers. Instead, that luxury retailer can look at historical location data to identify their ideal consumers: perhaps individuals who frequently stay at the Four Seasons Hotel or regularly check in to exclusive country clubs.

But retailers shouldn’t rely on mobile data alone. By layering mobile insights with other valuable sources of data, advertisers can gain a holistic picture of their perfect audiences. Data collected from laptops, for instance, can reveal browsing histories and online shopping patterns; however, consumers won’t be opening up their laptops while shopping in stores. The trick is for retailers to match the data across devices to unique mobile device IDs. Only then will they gain a more holistic understanding of consumers and will be able to target or retarget them with products they are likely to go buy.

Driving Foot Traffic Creatively

Once they’ve gotten a clear and thorough understanding of their ideal audiences, how can retailers use mobile devices to drive foot traffic? Proximity targeting—delivering ads to consumers when they come within a certain distance of a store location—is a common approach. Retailers can maximize the power of proximity targeting by crafting unique and imaginative creatives.

For instance, advertisers can deliver ads to shoppers already in the area to tell them about an in-store sale, or offer them a coupon they can only redeem in person. Retailers can also deliver ads that feature a handy map telling consumers how to find their store.

Sometimes, targeting consumers when they are walking by a store may be a little too late. A QSR wanting to boost its 10 am breakfast crowd, for instance, may want to target consumers when they wake up around 7a and begin planning their day. Otherwise, the consumer has most likely already made their breakfast choice.

While there is no one-size-fits-all solution for retailers looking to connect with consumers and drive in-store sales, a strong mobile strategy is key. As the digital and physical worlds continue to blend, retailers must harness the insights and capabilities of mobile to reach their unique brand objectives.

Tune in next week to read all about how mobile is fast becoming the extension of a retailer’s store.

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