Publishers invest in home-grown mobile ad innovations

What’s the future of mobile advertising for publishers? Anything but the banner ad.

Publishers burned by sinking display ad revenue are seeing a more troublesome version of the trend on mobile. Mobile ads are easily ignored, and when they aren’t, they’re accidentally clicked and increasing commodified. While most publishers are getting upwards of half of their traffic from mobile devices, they haven’t been as successful with monetizing those mobile visits. The average mobile CPM hangs at around $1.46, per the IAB.

“Mobile Web ads are basically useless: The pricing is very low, and there is not enough inventory to be meaningful — essentially one placement per page, if that,” said Dorian Benkoil, SVP at Teeming Media.

It’s a situation that many publishers are trying to engineer their way out of. Yahoo, for example, announced this week a new image-rich native ad unit, which is designed to flow seamlessly with the content around it. The company believes that non-standard native ad placements can help it command higher prices from brands.

And Yahoo isn’t alone. Here’s how some publishers are trying to take control of their mobile destinies with their own variations on the mobile ad experience.

Forbes: Mobile “Info Cards”

Mobile-Info-Card-Swipe

While Forbes runs standard desktop 300 x 250 ads on its mobile site, it presents them in a novel way via its Info Cards. Ads like the one above for Samsung’s Galaxy S5 appear within the Forbes mobile site content stream, which users swipe through horizontally as they would in an app. While Info Cards are limited to articles, paid BrandVoice posts, and standard ads right now, Forbes plans to extend their functionality to both editorial and branded video content down the line as well.

“In all other mediums, the ads appear within natural breaks, said Mark Howard,  Forbes chief revenue officer. “One of the nice things about being confined to small screens on mobile is that it’s forcing us to put the ads within breaks as well.”

Say Media: Responsive ads

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Responsive design can improve the ad experience as much as it does the reading experience. With Say Media’s high-impact “responsive ads,” which it developed in-house, brands can create ads that feel the same no matter what device readers see them on.

“A lot more content is being consumed on mobile-optimized websites,” said Greg Williams, Say Media senior product director. “Adaptable ads were our answer to that.”

It’s an approach that makes sense for a time where users are consuming content on devices with a wide range of screen sizes. Say Media’s responsive ads also improve the reading experience because they appear within the content stream, not on the periphery.

The Weather Company: Location- and weather-driven data

WeatherchannelmobileWhile most publishers are focused on the format of their mobile ad units, The Weather Company has been working on ways to increase the data that determines how to serve them. With its WeatherFX data platform, The Weather Company can use local weather data to serve users ads that are relevant to their weather conditions. For instance, if a user is somewhere with a high pollen count, The Weather Company can serve them ads for allergy medication. It can also work in the opposite way: New Yorkers dealing with a harsh winter weather have a good chance of seeing ads for Caribbean vacations.

“Many mobile campaigns I see outside of app installs are still simple desktop extensions or one-off stunts,” said Alex Linde, vp of monetization at The Weather Company. “We need to provide the targeting to reach the right consumer at the right moment, the formats to enable marketers to tell stories, and the measurement techniques to calculate a solid ROI that lead to learnings that can be applied to future campaigns,” he said.