Rich media mobile ads – What they are and why you need them

As the smartphone market continues to grow, so does the mobile advertising industry that’s rapidly being built around it. However, when it comes to actual brand expenditure on mobile ads, growth is somewhat lagging behind many analysts’ predictions. This is partly to do with problems relating to effective tracking and data measurement, but it’s also down to the perceived effectiveness of mobile campaigns. As many advertisers have discovered, user engagement with mobile ads is relatively low. With the former problem, advertisers simply have to wait for mobile ad analytics to further mature, but the latter issue already has a proven solution – rich media mobile ads.

What are rich media mobile ads?

A rich media mobile ad is essentially a mobile display ad that offers users a more engaging experience than the static banner advertisements that predominate on most apps and mobile websites. Rich mobile ads come in many shapes and sizes, including:

  • Banner ads that can expand when prompted, to cover more screen real estate.
  • Full-screen ads, or wrap-around ads for app or website ‘takeovers’
  • Ads that feature video or animations
  • Interactive ads that respond to tilts, shakes, touches and swipes
  • Ads that incorporate simple videogames
  • Ads that incorporate dynamic information, such as weather or location

Why rich media ads are important
When brands approach the mobile space they often do so as an afterthought to an existing campaign. This approach frequently leads advertisers toward the easiest and cheapest option – static banner ads. Regular banner ads, usually served by a blind ad network and displayed discretely at the bottom of an app or website, typically offer click through rates of around 0.5%. This may be slightly better than regular (PC-bound) online banners, but it’s becoming more and more evident that rich media mobile ads can vastly improve upon this level of user engagement.
When Google launched its new rich media ad templates (which among other features allowed brands to use image galleries, 360-degree image rotation and video), clients such as Reebok and Coldwell Banker reported much healthier interaction rates of 7% and 6%. The brand Gilt experienced interaction rates as high as 15%. Mobile ad network Greystripe, recognised as a leader in the rich media space, also claims that its rich mobile ads have delivered a CTR increase of 136% over static banner ads.
Obviously ad networks have a vested interest in promoting such figures, but the brands themselves have also reported better results when it comes to rich media. Absolute Radio was one of the first advertisers to launch a rich media mobile campaign on Apple’s iAd platform and saw it’s brand awareness increase by 10%, with the average user spending an impressive 101.8 seconds within its interactive ads. The radio station has since launched two more iAd campaigns, which revolve around a mix of in-ad quizzes and simple videogames. Last August, UK retailer John Lewis found that users exposed to its rich media mobile ads (expandable banners) were 25% more likely to remember the ad than those who saw static banners.
Why rich media works 
It’s not hard to understand why rich media campaigns are so much more successful than regular banner ads. The restrictive size of a smartphone screen means that traditional advertisements must be small and unobtrusive in order to avoid rendering an app or mobile site inoperable. But this also means they struggle to get a user’s attention. If a brand wants to engage a user beyond static banners they must deliver campaigns that are innovative, so that the user does not mind relinquishing control of their screen real estate and suspending engagement with their app or mobile site.
There are drawbacks of course. It is more expensive to run a rich media ad campaign on mobile and it also requires advertisers to think a more innovatively on how to best leverage the mobile medium for their brand. But nevertheless, advertisers need to take rich media mobile ads more seriously and the mobile ad industry needs to do a better job at promoting their worth. Given the evident increase in ROI, rich media should now form the core of any effective mobile ad campaign.

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