mobile audience targetingMobile is redefining our daily lives and mobile behavior, becoming the device we reach to for information, assistance and advertising that — like our devices — is personal and relevant (and therefore valuable to us). Correctly, the discussion is centered on how brands can best achieve contextual relevance (by delivering the right ad at the right place or time). But a new report from independent mobile ad and data platform company Millennial Media suggests that this interpretation of ‘relevancy’ needs a rethink.

The June 2012 SMART report (Scorecard for Mobile Advertising Reach and Targeting) from Millennial Media, which draws from actual campaign data to deliver insights on key mobile advertising trends such as spend, highlights the beginnings of a new and seismic shift in the way marketers think about mobile.

Specifically, the new SMART report states that advertisers started “moving away from content targeting and shifted to buying audiences.” What’s more, advertisers leveraged the “the power and uniqueness of real-world data found only in mobile.”

Marcus Startzel, Millennial Media General Manager, North America, described this shift during this week’s Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) Forum event in New York City. In his view it’s not about serving the right ad in the right place at the right time. It’s about finding “the right customer in the right place at the right time.”

Actions speak louder

Mobile is what we are.

The advance of smartphones and tablets changes all the rules, equipping us to watch ‘wow’ impact mobile video, manage our daily routine, do our personal banking and budgeting, research products, make purchases and download tons of apps. Naturally, our real- world actions speak volumes about our interests, intent and passions.

Marketers that can connect the dots in our breadcrumb trail have a serious edge on the competition. Wielding the hard data and deep insights mobile provides allows these brands to have a holistic view of their target audience and — more importantly — an understanding of the key characteristics of ‘intenders,’ the audience segment already using their devices to research and purchase goods and services.

Knowing (and targeting) ‘intenders’ is critical, which is why this new SMART report also details how Millennial Media has adjusted its reporting to highlight the Leading Behavioral Audiences targeted in Q1 2012.

Mobile Advertising Behavioral AudiencesSignificantly, this dovetails with the Mobile Intel series of reports, a series of reports geared to specific verticals (Finance, Retail, Automotive) that draws from Millennial Media platform data and consumer research conducted by comScore to help brands identify (and engage with) ‘intenders’. To achieve this, the report series sheds light on the make up of intenders: age, gender, income bracket, preferred devices and interactions (Web, app) and the array of content they access (sites where automotive advertising would likely address this audience and yield results).

Having succeeded in producing the research that identifies ‘intenders’, this new SMART report takes it one step further, sharing a deeper look at the “sub-categories that make up this audience.”

Good intentions

Zeroing in on In-Market Auto Intenders ­ consumers directly in the market for a car— the report details the approaches (and audience targeting) brands embraced.

Clinching the deal by interacting with customers who were in the all-important the ‘research phase’ of the purchase process, the Auto Interest sub-category of Auto Intenders, were the focus of 24 percent of campaigns and targeted with a variety of brand awareness campaigns. Other sub-categories targeted in Q1 focused on consumers who were further down the purchase funnel and had expressed their clear intent by identifying the vehicle they were interested in purchasing. These included: Luxury Vehicle Intender (23 percent),  SUVs/MPVs Intender(19 percent) and Truck Intender (16 percent).

Millennial Media Auto Intenders MixThe message to marketers here: Identify your Intenders and follow their lead with campaigns aimed at clinching the deal. After all, these consumers have shown by their actions that they know your brand (Brand Awareness) and are researching to make a purchase. The way is clear to focus further down in the purchase funnel.

But it’s not just about offering consumers ‘fries with their fries’ (showing automotive advertising on typically automotive focused sites, for example). A case study from Pandora shows that brands can excel if they think outside the box.

In the case of Pandora, which designs and manufacturers modern jewelry, the target audience was males and the objective was to give them gift ideas for Valentine’s Day. To this end the brand cleverly created a specially themed campaign (“Create a Valentine’s Gift in Minutes”) and purposely timed it to run heavy on Super Bowl Sunday, when it correctly figured ads on mobile sites and apps would reach men while they were browsing between plays.

As Angel Ilagan,Vice President, Marketing, Pandora North America put it: “Pandora didn’t have $3.5 million to spend on a :30 second Super Bowl spot, but we wanted to reach this male audience leading up to Valentine’s Day.” The approach made sense since “86 percent of our target is using their mobile phone while watching TV.”

Sports ad spending up & other insights

For me, this report stands out because it deep dives into how (and why) targeting ads by audience —delivering advertising in sync with what we do and not just where we are — can drive positive results.

However, the report also details a number of other top trends in observed in Q1 2012 including:

  • Increased mobile advertising budgets year-over-year
  • More developers making ad buys to promote their mobile apps
  • The rise (and rise) of Sports, a vertical that didn’t increase enough to list in the Top 10 Global Brand Advertising Verticals, but nonetheless “experienced growth of 287 percent year-over-year.” The driver: Sports advertisers harnessed mobile to raise awareness of seasonal events and drive ticket sales.
  • Sports apps nearly doubled quarter-over-quarter, moving up to take the number 6 slot in Top 10 Mobile Application Categories. The driver: Larger publishers created branded apps around seasonal sporting (Super Bowl and March Madness) and encouraged users to download their apps by providing real-time updates to sporting events and – in some cases – allowing users to watch games directly on their mobile devices. (The momentum around sports will likely move up a gear as events such as the UEFA European Championships and the Summer Olympics move into full swing.)

My take:

It is still important (and extremely effective) to serve ads to people based on ‘clues’ such as their location and time of day. But marketers should also leverage the data only mobile can deliver about our real-time activities to deliver advertising that is in tune with our actions (and aligned with our expressed intent).

This post is part of our Mobile Advertising Briefing Room, a thinking space dedicated to providing its community mobile intelligence, consumer research, case studies and industry best practices that equip marketers to reach and engage their target audience at scale. This discussion is hosted & sponsored by Millennial Media.