Creativity on mobile – or the lack thereof – was top of mind at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Monday.
“The notion that creativity hasn’t been cracked on mobile – I find that depressing,” said Lindsay Pattison, CEO of Maxus Worldwide, speaking at an IAB event sponsored by Facebook and NASDAQ during the big show.
“Most clients know that they need to be much more adaptive to the mobile world, but they’re hesitant because they don’t understand it,” she said.
Programmatic buying contributes to some of that hesitancy. The ability to target and purchase more efficiently is a plus, but advertisers are less than inspired by the type of mobile inventory that’s available through automated systems – mostly ”crappy banner ads,” as Mike Parker, global chief digital officer at McCann Worldgroup, put it.
“Clients can understand the value of programmatic media,” Parker said. “It’s a great deal, but if the consumer experience is bad, that’s when brands say, ‘What is that doing for me?’ They’re concerned about putting a lot of money in mobile display, which is why they’re more excited about the native space.”
That said, programmatic is good for mobile, said Erin Kienast, SVP and director of mobility at Starcom USA.
“We’re still figuring out a solution. Everyone is scared about programmatic, especially on the media side, but it’s forcing us to be smarter because our baseline work is being automated, as it should be, which allows us to be more strategic,” Kienast said.
But creativity in the mobile context isn’t all all that radically different from creativity in any other context or on any other channel, said David Sable, global CEO of Y&R. Advertisers and agencies had to figure out TV and radio. Now mobile’s on the agenda.
Creativity is simply the story you tell and the assets you use to tell it, Sable said. Innovation is what allows you to distribute that story.
”Facebook is an innovation, but Facebook, in and of itself, is not a creative thing. You need to put stuff in it,” Sable said. “And technology is nothing but an enabler.”
The same can be said for mobile, whose constraints aren't insurmountable.
“Any kind of creative has to work within the context of the person seeing it," Sable said. "If you’re mobile on your tablet, for example, I can give you something more engaging than if you’re walking down the street looking for a restaurant.”
Mobile's challenges include the relatively diminutive size of a phone’s screen, although that’s changing with the release of larger smartphones from all the major manufacturers.
“There are the constraints of the real estate and trying to persuade someone and have emotional engagement is difficult,” Parker said.
But there have been inroads.
“People see mobile as a challenge, but it’s a creative opportunity,” said Pattison, pointing to recent work Maxus did for NBC’s new action/drama show "Odyssey." The Instagram-led campaign will run over the next five weeks featuring photos and teaser information about the main characters as more of their backstories are revealed.
“In the good old days, those [pictures] would have been posters, probably three or four different executions run for a multiweek campaign,” Pattinson said. “Here you can have 50 images that tell a story and you can add in interactivity.”
Mobile is a canvas that allows for a more fluid narrative – and the chance to be smarter with data.
“I certainly think next year will still be all about programmatic and rightly so,” said Gary Morrison, SVP of retail at Brand Expedia Worldwide.
But Y&R’s Sable is still kept up at night by what he called one of the biggest challenges – ”understanding what to serve and why you’re serving it.”
“This year in Cannes will be the first year we’re going to do a Lion for data,” said Sable, who will officiate as president of the Cannes Data Lions in June. “I’ve challenged the jury already and told them that I’m not interested in any digi-babble. [I want to know how the data] drives insight and targeting – but I also want to know how that impacts the creative. You’ll see the industry struggling with that issue.”