As part of the launch of Opera House, Opera Mediaworks’s global creative studio, we are launching a blog series that will showcase some of our best creative work, creative best practices and our global creative talent that churns out award-winning mobile ad campaigns. This week, we caught up with Luke Harris, the creative lead for the Opera Mediaworks EMEA team to find out what he thinks are mobile creative’s most unique characteristics and its most potential, and how his team works through the medium’s existing (and rising!) challenges.
“Good things — no, great things — come in small packages”
And yes, your phone is small. That screen is so many times smaller than the very traditional media spaces the advertising industry was used to: billboards, cinema screens and large TVs. But it’s densely packed with pixels, and, more importantly, with features. It knows where you live, where you’re going, how to direct you there, and all of these other little details that open up a whole world of engagement possibilities.
Sure, the screen size is a limitation. But that’s the fun of it: figuring out how to work with that one obvious limitation, and replace the old styles, such as rich, detailed layouts with loads of copy, or 30-second video ads, with new formats that are specific to the mobile medium.
Mobile creative, to me, is about striking the right balance between the traditional creative style – high-energy, high-impact formats and messaging – and a style that takes advantage of the phone’s features, providing a more subtle interaction, or usefulness, that consumers appreciate.
“A great mobile ad has a lifespan beyond the ad itself.”
It used to be that an ad was just an ad — that you’d see it on your TV, computer or even mobile device, have that single impression, and then turn away or close it out. And when you did that, the ad experience ended. But what we’re finding now is that when you integrate the native features of the phone, you can extend the lifespan of your ad.
It’s one thing to say, for instance, that “Your nearest Starbucks is 3 blocks away.” It’s another thing entirely to literally point the user in the right direction and guide them with arrows all the way to the door of the shop, leveraging the gyroscope technology to make the phone into a compass and guide.
A prime example of this is a campaign we did for the London Eye, a key landmark that overlooks the Thames river. It’s right in the middle of everything, but it can still be hard to find if buildings are obscuring it. We did proximity targeting to serve the campaign to visitors that were within 1,000 meters of it, and the ad pointed them to the exact location.
The London Eye [source: Wikipedia ]
And there are so many other ways that you can extend an advertisement, even well beyond a few minutes of guidance.
Lufthansa’s selfie ad unit [source: Marketing Land]
The selfie ad unit, for example, has the user taking a picture of themselves and integrating it into a background photo that we create. That (branded) picture then lives in the user’s image gallery, and, if they post it on social media, on those public channels as well.
Or, say there is an event, like the season finale of Game of Thrones; you can have the user “Add to calendar” and set reminders for it, which means that event also now “lives” on the phone itself.
“A unique storytelling campaign? It all depends on how brave you are.”
One of the great benefits of what we can do now with mobile targeting and user data is not limit ourselves to the one-hit wonder kind of ads. It seems contrary, because everyone thinks mobile is all about the quick hit, the short-form, but you do have the possibility of creating a full narrative. You can phase them just like TV ads, a teaser campaign with three, four or even five different messages, because the ad serving data tells us how many they’ve seen, which ones, and when. You can take the user on a journey, really.
But, it all depends on how brave you are. It’s very easy to overcomplicate mobile ads. The data still tells us that people don’t really see everything. If you look at mobile eye-tracking studies from web usability experts like Jakob Nielsen, for instance, you soon realize that it’s best to stick to the basics. Keep it sharp, with a simple message, logo and call to action (CTA). You can create multiple versions, of course, and even have a thematic connection among them, but make it a range, and keep your colors and style consistent.
We also try to stay on top of new workarounds to battle indifference to mobile ads. For example, there’s something now called “beyond the banner.” It’s not an auto-expand, but rather a subtle and fleeting little extra breakout from the conventional 320×50 space that is designed to counteract mobile banner blindness and get the user to look at the ad, even just for an extra second.
“Let’s turn that one off.”
When you do have a bunch of creative executions that are very similar, and just slightly different, you can then start testing those parameters to hit on the combination that works best. In a campaign we ran for a line of boots from a popular shoe brand, we had one with a man, one with a woman. We also had two different CTAs: “Shop now” and “Learn more.” We thought in this case that “Shop now” would perform better, but as it turned out, consumers really wanted to explore more content around the product, and not just start immediately shopping. So we said, okay, let’s just turn that one off.
“The real challenge? Communicating the concept to the client.”
You know those amazing features I mentioned earlier? The ones that we love to use as a core function of a campaign, like the gyroscope and camera? It’s a double-edged sword because it’s extremely difficult to get the concept across on paper, so it requires much more work to communicate it accurately to the client.
We found that flat design simply doesn’t cut it, so instead we create videos or digital storyboards. The client receives a URL that they can view on desktop or mobile, as an interactive slideshow that they can click (or tap) through to understand how the navigation plays out and how the ad ultimately works on a mobile device.
They’re not finished ads, of course, but we do find that they enhance the client’s imagination and allow them to get excited about it enough to buy in — and that’s what we need to move forward with what we know are exceptional campaigns.
Luke Harris is the Director of Studio at Opera Mediaworks EMEA.