Last week I attended the IAB Mobile Symposium in New York. Without a doubt, there is a lot happening in mobile advertising—both in-app and mobile-web. While it’s clear the medium offers advertisers new, exciting and creative opportunities to connect with its audiences, there are many unknowns plaguing its success. Like many industries affected by the unmatchable speed of technological change, mobile advertisers are working hard to keep up, while brands pour money into this still new frontier.

Here are four trending topics I took away from the event and some additional news in just the past week.

“It’s not about mobile, it’s about mobility”—From a strategic and creative standpoint, it’s not simply about targeting people’s phones. Marketers can utilize many possibilities to connect and build a brand – like Virtual Reality (VR) platforms, audio podcasts people listen to on the go, or “smart signage” in cities that can change content in a moment’s notice.

Niche and Scale—Taking advantage of mobile’s benefits isn’t just for the big brands. Many examples at the symposium were targeted to niche audiences. Advice offered by speakers was to start small and scale rather than try to create something huge right off the bat.

Transparency and Fraud—Saying there are a lot of players in the mobile ad space is an understatement. From publishers to demand side platforms (DSPs) to agencies, brands are understandably having a hard time knowing if the clicks they receive from their ads are leads from real humans. The industry players are still sorting out who is responsible for providing this transparency and how to best provide it.

But it was clear at the IAB Mobile Symposium that the situation is fluid and many players are working on solutions. By Friday of the same week, Associations Now published an article announcing that the Data & Marketing Association (DMA), advertising tech startup MetaX and software developer ConsenSys will help the industry identify and combat ad fraud by using blockchain software.

According to the article one in four publishers has no way of detecting web traffic that comes from nonhumans and advertising fraud is costing the industry $16.4 billion.

“The product of the partnership, adChain, is an open protocol on the public Ethereum blockchain that aims to connect the digital advertising industry’s disjointed supply chain.”

Brand Safety—Another area of concern for brands is knowing exactly where their ad is run and what content is running next to it. Ensuring that a particular brand’s ads run on sites that align with its brand values is a monumental task when the placement process is so dynamic. First, each brand has a different definition of appropriate content and second, content changes so quickly. So, in some cases the problem could be the whole site, or a site masking itself as a benign site. In other cases, it could just be mismatched content on a legitimate page. Think, airline ad running on a page with an article about a plane crash.

Publishers, DSPs, ad tech companies and other agencies continue to address this for brands, including Facebook, who announced it would allow brands to make blacklists in an effort to combat the problem and increase brands’ ad spend.

Watch for much more to come on all of these issues!


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