Mobile Value Spectrum, mobile, mobile advertising, digital marketing
From the report, Exploring the Role of Value in Mobile Advertising (source: Millward Brown)

What do mobile users expect from ads? A new study says that many mobile users want something of value in exchange for their attention.

According to the report, Exploring the Role of Value in Mobile Advertising, there’s a wide range of possible values. They could include the most popular value choice -- deals and coupons -- or free tools such as shopping lists, interest-based info like recipes, such location-based info as promotions, a branded game or similar fun feature, or the latest product news.

The report was conducted by research agency Millward Brown, in partnership with mobile loyalty platform and ad network SessionM, and it is a continuation of Millward Brown’s 2012 U.S. AdReaction Report, Marketing in the Mobile World.

Choosing the Reward

The report indicates a key problem is that mobile users do not always engage with the ads on their devices. For instance, only 9 percent of users reported very or somewhat favorable reactions to mobile ads, tied in last place with non-opt-in emails and trailing ads in social media, online search, ad-supported games, online video, online display and the most popular at 28 percent, opt-in email. One problem with this comparison, however, is that the report separates out mobile ads from ads in social media, online video or online search, although the latter three also exist on mobile devices.

Jayne Dow, Director of Qualitative Research and Digital Innovation at Millward Brown’s Firefly, said in a statement that “mobile advertising experiences that create a more balanced consumer experience -- ones that respect time and provide a useful outcome -- open the door of receptivity and have a positive impact on the brand.”

The report found that rewarded audiences are more than twice as likely to interact with brands as those who are not rewarded, and rewards expand a mobile users’ “consideration set.”

The report said it’s important to recognize that users want to choose their reward, as 92 percent of respondents indicated such a choice was important to them, and 68 percent want to know they’ll receive a reward, instead of being surprised.

The Reciprocity Rule

A key principle invoked in the report is the Reciprocity Rule, with repayment by one party for what another party has provided. Real world examples of the Rule include monkeys grooming each other, and the report says that “the value exchange equation is the activation of the rule of reciprocity in mobile.” The idea is that consumers reward brands with their loyalty, if the brands deliver on the value exchange.

The conditions for reward-based mobile advertising, the report said, are that the ads need to be timely, chosen and relevant, and the reward needs to be predicable, tangible and chosen. The value exchange also needs to be commensurate with expectations.

One area that the report does not directly address is why these expectations of a value exchange should be any different for mobile ads than for, say, desktop or laptop ads, or whether smartphone ads differ from tablet ads. It does say that consumers expect “mobile will know who I am and target accordingly,” but doesn’t connect that directly to why the mobile space might be different. Ads on desktops and laptops, for instance, often know “who I am.”

Another confusion is that the report frequently describes an in-app ad as being a reward-based ad, but it’s unclear if simply the presence of an ad inside an application is considered a reward. Intuitively, it would seem that ads inside an app I use and am interested in are going to be more interesting to me than, say, general ads on a web page.