There’s no denying it: smartphones and tablets have transformed our world. Over the past decade, mobile devices have massively altered the ways in which we communicate, collaborate and transact with each other.   

What’s more, the way we, as humans, interact with our mobile devices is not like anything that has come before. We have become psychologically and emotionally attached to our devices. 90% of us now sleep with our smartphones beside our beds and 70% of people reach for their phone within 15 minutes of getting up. We then look at our devices on average around 150 times a day

This unique personal relationship between consumers and their devices has also changed the way we expect brands to communicate and interact with us on mobile.  Unfortunately, though, too many organisations are failing to develop creative strategies tailored specifically to the mobile environment.

The evolution of development technologies such as HTML5 has made creating and delivering engaging Rich Media experiences over mobile more accessible and affordable than ever – and yet many brands continue to underinvest in creative campaigns that leverage the channel’s unrivaled marketing potential. 

Mobile is a marketer’s dream 

The mobile device offers marketers several advantages over other platforms. We’ve already touched on how attached we are to our phones; where we go, they go, giving mobile ads an obvious edge over location-dependent ad formats such as TV or billboards.  

The ability to target and track digital campaigns has seen digital ad budgets overtake investment in TV and print. In the mobile setting, however, this ‘trackability’ has had a curious side-effect: investment in mobile Rich Media on mobile to date is skewed heavily towards performance-led campaigns (rather than campaigns aimed at raising check their pho brand awareness).

In 2017, though, to utilise mobile advertising purely as a performance marketing tactic is to ignore the real advantage on offer for brands: emotional engagement.   

Mobile and tablet devices offer lots of native functionality that’s unique to these platforms.  Unlike their desktop and print equivalents, mobile ads are ‘touchable’. i.e. they appear on touchscreen devices, giving marketers the chance to engage the consumer physically and emotionally and immediately start them on their journey towards a transaction.  

This, in turn, gives creatives the opportunity to get very creative indeed, e.g. prompting users to interact physically with tilts, taps, swipes, shakes, pinches and so on, and willingly ‘opt-in’ for more. This personalised interaction also helps to increase things like brand recall and personal affinity with the brand, driving consumers towards viewing the brand in a favourable light.

Crucially, rich media ads allow smart, creative advertisers to engage the user in a non-disruptive way that doesn’t intrude on the intensely personal relationship between the mobile device and its user.

In tests, rich media ads outperform their static equivalents by more than 400%. Modern HTML5-enabled rich media ads allow brands to make use of complex visuals, include video content and leverage other cool techniques like gamification; they also allow advertisers to maintain really low file sizes per ad, reducing load time for the user. 

And yet, despite the obvious and numerous advantages on offer, Rich Media on mobile is still seriously underutilised by marketers. So, what’s stopping them?

Striking it Rich beyond performance

Given that we’ve had the tenth anniversary of the first iPhone, mobile can’t really be considered a new medium anymore. As an industry, marketing has struggled to get to grips with mobile from a creative point of view and to exploit the unique opportunities provided by mobile functionality.

There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, it could be argued that the advertising industry, fearful of disrupting its existing revenue streams too quickly, has been slow to educate the marketplace on the incredible engagement potential that mobile offers.

Secondly, until recently, the specialist development skills required to develop and executive robust rich media campaigns on mobile were scarce and often located in-house at agencies. Understandably, those agencies would then charge a premium for their specialists, pricing many advertisers out of the market and leaving many with the lasting impression that Rich Media on mobile was beyond their reach.

Things have naturally moved on since then, both in terms of the volume of skilled rich media developers available in the marketplace and of new technologies, such as HTML5, which have made things far easier and more affordable than ever before.  Unfortunately, given their lack of experience to date in utilising rich media on mobile, many marketing departments still lack the confidence or the clear creative vision required to invest in the channel. Others simply labelled mobile rich media campaigns as ‘too hard’ some time ago and have yet to revisit that decision.

However, the time has undoubtedly come for performance marketers and brand marketers alike to take another look at rich media on mobile. New mobile specific ad formats allow creatives to utilise rich media features affordably and offer brands a route to levels of customer engagement that other marketing channels can only dream of.

Nick King

Nick King


Nick King, UK Managing Director at Exponential