Invoking Relevance

RelevanceBEST PRACTICE IN MOBILE ADVERTISING remains an oxymoron, as marketers grapple with the natural tension between intrusiveness and usefulness. There is a strong drive to justify ad spending and validate the business premise behind personalized promotions. Relevance seems to be the key, we are told, and the unique data-capturing and consumer-tracking capabilities of mobile devices should materialize a marketer’s nirvana in which every message is on-target and welcomed.

Recent consumer research from PriceWaterhouseCoopers suggests that this formula may need to be applied with greater subtlty, however.  In Mobile advertising: What do US consumers want?, PwC researchers find, “There is an overall aversion to the prevalence of mobile advertising. Even ads that are relevant to personal interests do not directly translate to ad interest or engagement.”

This poses a challenge indeed, since according to PwC, “The biggest challenge is to leverage the knowledge of how consumers are using mobile to improve monetization from ad delivery.”

A recent RetailWire discussion sparked a lively debate over these findings and others in the report. Most participants seemed to accept the inevitability of mobile advertising. Many also seemed to grasp that mobile interactions may be fundamentally different, due to the intimacy of the device and their sheer frequency. This is fertile ground for best practice development.

Here’s my take:

“Relevance” is a magic word invoked by mobile marketers in an effort to justify their intrusion into the media experience. It seems like a reasonable principle, but I suspect that consumers may have much more nuanced ideas of what relevance means in their lives.

Right now a lot of big strategic and monetizing bets are being made based on the belief that mobile users are eager to view promotional content. OK, well at least they are willing to tolerate promotional content, right?

Mobile is an un-mass market. I suspect too many of the supporting surveys are constructed to validate the broad premise of relevance without digging deeper into individual differences. Relevance needs to be not just about which message to send at a given moment, it must also be about if a message should be sent at all.

© Copyright 2014 James Tenser

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