With blocking rocking the mobile ad industry, contextual marketing reigns supreme

With blocking rocking the mobile ad industry, contextual marketing reigns supreme
Andrew Ford is vice president, marketing and communications, Europe for Pitney Bowes. Andrew oversees the brand's marketing and communications, with a focus on digital commerce, SMB mailing, enterprise and European content localisation. Andrew has extensive B2B marketing experience in the technology sector, with experience working with HP, Dell and Norton. Originally responsible for developing e-commerce and marketing within a global marketing and communications model at HP, Andrew established Dell’s Enterprise Solutions Marketing group to develop the EMEA Marketing team. Andrew also helped transition Symantec’s Norton antivirus from tradition retail sales to a SaaS & e-commerce organisation, as director of marketing for EMEA.


In 2016, mobile advertising spend is set to top $100 billion worldwide.  Businesses large and small continue to invest in this rapidly-growing form of advertising and reap the rewards. One example is Facebook: the social media giant has revealed that during the third quarter of this year, mobile advertising revenue accounted for $10 billion in sales – that’s around 78% of its advertising revenue.  

Advertisers and developers are also making the most of opportunities presented by mobile apps, as monetising mobile sees a shift from businesses generating revenue by selling apps, to making revenue by selling within apps. There are challenges, though: delivering a high quality user experience isn’t easy, ads aren’t always relevant, and making sure the style is consistent with a brand’s omnichannel physical and digital marketing programme is another challenge, in what is still a relatively-new media.

There’s another cloud on the horizon for mobile marketers. Alongside the seismic shift to mobile has come an increase in ad blocking, which has grown by 41% since 2014. You might expect a rise if the number of adverts being shown is increasing, but a 41% increase is high and should be raising eyebrows, and concerns, in ad agencies across the world.

Mobile phone company EE has sparked a resurgence in the debate, with news that it is launching a strategic review looking at whether its users should be offered the ability to control the advertising they receive on their mobile devices. The review will consider offering customers options such as tools which enable users to block banners, pop-ups and auto-playing videos. EE itself is the 27th biggest advertiser in the UK, spending over £7 million on print and online advertising in the 12 months to June 2015, so they’re not entering into this debate lightly. As CEO Olaf Swantee said in an interview with the Daily Telegraph: “Not all ads are bad. When a business gets it right, it’s appreciated and sparks a connection”.

There are six words in Swantee’s quote which should heed as a warning for every marketer: “When a business gets it right”. His implication is that businesses sometimes get it wrong – and indeed they do. Our mobile devices are an extension of ourselves: we’re lost without them, often literally. Every message, app, photo, video is personal to us, and every device different from that of the next person-  which is why mass-broadcast, untimely and impersonal mobile advertising feels intrusive and inappropriate. It has no place in our data-driven world of precision and accuracy.

Conversely, when they get it right, businesses drive customer engagement, generate results and create revenue through mobile advertising. And the best way to ‘get it right?’ It has to be contextual marketing. It enables a shift from what the business wants to promote, to what interests the customer.

Contextual marketing adds an extra dimension to mobile marketing and unleashes its potential. It eliminates guesswork, removes risk and ensures the right message is sent to the right person, at the right time – and, crucially, in the right place.  Integrating location to marketing is everything. Our space, and our place, in our environment could just be the saving grace for mobile advertisers concerned about ad blocking.

Here is why contextual marketing is so powerful:   

  • It empowers customers and consumers – users choose to opt-in to allow location-based services on smartphones. Research has found that 74% of consumers with smartphones choose to use location-based services.

  • It fits with the economic climate – in our Wowcher-obsessed world, consumers love a bargain; contextual marketing shares targeted, location-based discounts and offers.
  • It works across different demographics and is perfect for mobile millennials –website icontact.com cites an example of yogurt chain 16Handles, which identified its main demographic to be 13-25 year old Snapchat users. 16Handles invited Snapchat users to share a photo of themselves at one of their stores then send it to the company’s Snapchat handle. 16Handles then sent money-off vouchers to users.
  • It uses precise and accurate geospatial intelligence which pinpoints location in real-time – there is more location data available to us than ever before, and it adds value to a customer relationship.
  • It generates data which can be fed back into a business intelligence system, creating valuable, and ethically-sourced, customer intelligence.
  • It’s personalised – you’re not shouting with a megaphone hoping someone will respond, but sending a valid and personal message, generating a one-to-one relationship.
  • It’s effective – Response rates and conversion rates are from five to twenty times higher than the results from conventional online advertising, according to Nathan Hull in The Guide to Internet Marketing.

Marketing driven by customer choice is powerful, personal, and a smart way to invest advertising budget. Companies such as iadbox evangelise this, with permission marketing helping consumers to opt-in to what interests them and what they want to receive. 

Successful advertising, whether digital or physical, comes down to accurate personalisation and honed, precise data. Contextual marketing integrates the ‘where’ as well as the ‘who, why, when and what’ , and this is key to its impact, and to the future of mobile advertising. 

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