Mobile Takeaways from the 2019 IAB Annual Leadership Meeting

Our industry experts from the IAB Mobile Marketing Center of Excellence attended the 2019 IAB Annual Leadership Meeting in Phoenix, AZ, from which they share their main takeaways:

  • It’s truly a mobile first world and brand messages must finally follow suit. Executionally, direct brands employ a truly mobile-first strategy, designed with consumer experience in mind and engagement as a measurable goal. Direct brands take a holistic view of what content is, how it is executed and how it is tested and evaluated for effectiveness. Content is more than just the ad. Content is anything, and everything, that serves to establish brand affinity and long-term loyalty. It can take on many forms, from the packaging itself, to customer service language, to branded content creation and distribution, and use of user-generated content and influencer marketing tactics. Even the eCommerce experience online is factored into the content equation (e.g. ease of transactions). As Linda Yaccarino, Chairman, Advertising and Partnerships, NBC Universal, said at the 2019 IAB Annual Leadership Meeting, “We must rethink the relationship between ads and content… It is time to finally measure what matters, metrics that direct brands are demanding to understand how consumers are behaving with real world outcomes/ROI (return on investment).”
  • Technology is a game changer for mobile content and mobile ad effectiveness. The use of technology such as programmatic and Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning can work to a brand’s advantage to develop and distribute relevant messages to consumers. To do this effectively, creative assets should be produced that can be adapted to best take advantage of these technologies. This means that brands should throw out the notion of one-size-fits all creative approaches and develop a more dynamic creative mindset, meaning multiple images, headlines and calls to action that can be rendered in real time to create messages that will resonate with the viewer. For video, this means producing vertical video with mobile views in mind. While this requires more upfront planning, and perhaps additional costs, especially when it comes to image/production/usage rights, these efforts should improve brand performance in the short and long term. With the speed that technology enables, brands need to be willing to test content from both a performance and brand point of view, to measure its effectiveness, and to walk away from what is not working. As Pete Kim, CEO of Mighty Hive, said at the IAB Annual Leadership Meeting, “Marketing communications of all forms need to become as relevant and pertinent as the content that surrounds it… There’s a lot of experimenting happening right now. We need more tolerance for some risk taking now.” This means that testing and iterating is critical because “the pace of change is accelerating and will continue to do so.” The old ways of producing and testing content will no longer suffice in a world where technology can enable near real-time learning.
  • Mobile app vs. mobile web – Is it an either/or? This topic was addressed at a provocative break out session at the IAB Annual Leadership Meeting, building on discussions among the IAB Mobile Marketing Center of Excellence board members. At the end of the day, mobile app vs. mobile web is not an either/or debate, but it is clear that industry education is needed to fully understand the benefits and limitations of each. For instance, while nearly every study shows that time spent is dramatically higher for mobile app than mobile web, questions about how time spent is reported loom; e.g. time spent in mobile web is often reported as in-app because the traffic originates there. Further, is time spent the best metric in a world where interactivity and engagement are seen by many as the best way to determine consumer behavior and content impact? On the topic of mobile app vs. mobile web, other areas that IAB will be addressing in 2019 will include budget allocation, demographic and contextual targeting advantages/disadvantages, measurement challenges (both app to app and app to mobile web), creative optimization best practices, and the impact of the evolving public policy landscape.
  • Affiliate marketing is on the rise. Programmatic affiliate marketing is poised to take on a more active role in the direct brand economy. Forrester predicts affiliate marketing to grow to $6.82B in 2020; up +15% from 2018. This growing tactic enables disruptor brands to find new customer segments that they aren’t already speaking to via their larger market campaigns. Using predictive modelling based on machine-learning technology, affiliate marketing facilitates faster, better informed market decisions around pricing, commissioning, discounting, targeting, and which products to promote to which audiences. These components are all critical in developing and maintaining the authentic, deep, personalized relationships that are cornerstones of the direct brand economy. And, since most direct-to-consumer (DTC) shopping activity is done via mobile devices, capturing first-party data on mobile accessed affiliate channels is critical in accurate predictive modelling. The IAB Mobile Marketing Center of Excellence will be taking a deep dive in to affiliate marketing through a working group that will develop a playbook for the buy-side and direct brands in 2019.
  • At the end of the day, it’s about putting the consumer first. This may seem intuitive, but this is more important now than ever. We need to respect the consumer on their most intimate device, their mobile phone, and be cognizant of their needs and expectations at any given moment in their mobile journey. This means the industry must produce ads that are LEAN compliant so they load quickly. Ad messages need to be appropriate for the medium and the platform or website where they live (e.g. Visuals that work on Facebook may not be as effective on Snap. Does anyone really want to view a :30 ad that was developed for TV when checking the weather in the morning?) And, of course, in our evolving public policy landscape, we must commit to being transparent about data collection and use. We can create relevant ads without being creepy. As Ryan McConville, President and COO, Kargo, said at the 2019 IAB Annual Leadership Meeting, we must “bring humanity and common sense to the industry.”

Read more about “How to Build a 21st Century Brand” in the second edition of this IAB direct brand economy report and download your playbook to navigate this shift and learn how to thrive in this new economy.

Discover the “2019 IAB 250: Direct Brands to Watch,” a first-of-its-kind analysis pinpointing the most important direct brands to watch in the U.S. economy. These need-to-know direct-to-consumer brands are disrupting their categories and shaping the future of business.


Susan Borst
Head of Social and Content Marketing Solutions
at IAB

Julian Soler
Director, Mobile Marketing Center of Excellence
at IAB