Making Mobile Advertising Better: Meredith's Real Women Talking® on Mobile Advertising

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Mobile advertising sometimes feels like that old cliché about the weather: everyone complains about it but no one ever does anything about it. There are many paths to improving mobile ads:  encouraging better creative canvases (like the IAB Mobile Rising Stars), as well as tools to make it easier to build cool things to go on those canvases (like the MRAID), or guidance to creative designers on using tools that already exist (like our work on HTML5).

But it’s also incredibly important to listen to consumers. While sometimes that conversation feels very one-note (“I hate all ads everywhere”) most people do realize that ads are why they get so many of their digital content and services for free, and so would rather see good ads than bad ones. That’s why the IAB Mobile Center was excited to partner with Meredith Xcelerated Marketing (MXM), to tap into Meredith’s “Real Women Talking®” community on some questions about what they like, and dislike, about mobile ads.  

The results speak to striking a balance—perhaps one that the mobile industry hasn’t quite mastered yet—between being too obtrusive and being too ignorable, and being relevant without being creepy. We found that context is critical - from placement to creative messaging. The best mobile advertising is relevant placement, simple creative and engages on her terms. That is, a successful mobile ad must fit into the context of a busy, mobile life.

With mobile advertising, it’s easier to miss the mark than to hit it. Women in Meredith’s Real Women Talking®” community told us that “I often miss the ads when they pop up on my phone” - too unobtrusive—but also that “Ads that take up the whole screen [are] really bad and would leave me with a negative impression of the company” -too obtrusive. This suggests a need for a better banner—something bigger than a 320x50 but smaller than a 300x250. It also underscores the potential of in-feed ads, which are hard to overlook even as they scroll with the content.

Based on the conversations with the women in its community and the mobile ad examples they shared, MXM proposes five core principles for mobile advertising aimed at its audience (and consumers more generally):

  1. Get noticed: 320x50 banners don’t do enough to get her attention.
  2. Don’t force it: Forced ad engagements, for example with time consuming auto-play video ads, leave a negative impression.  Don’t let frustration trump the ad’s message.
  3. Relevance, relevance, relevance: Be relevant not just to her, but to what she’s doing at that moment.
  4. It’s all about her: Get to know her. Be relevant, and she’ll be much more likely to take notice.
  5. Keep it simple: An unclear message will be perceived as spam she’ll ignore them. Be simple, direct, and succinct.

“These principles are just the beginning”, says Britta Cleveland, SVP of research who leads Meredith’s Real Women Talking® community, “our goal is to continue to listen to the feedback - good and bad - and continue to do something about it!”
I couldn’t agree more. A more detailed summary of what the Meredith’s Real Women Talking® Community had to say about mobile ads can be found here

About the Author


Joe Laszlo

Joe Laszlo is Senior Director, Mobile Marketing Center of Excellence, at the IAB.