'Publishers need to think differently and invest'

Mobile and tablets can play a key role in ad campaigns and content so long as they're user-friendly and clearly targeted, two heads of digital believe.

James Harris
James Harris

JON SLADE - GLOBAL DIGITAL AD SALES DIRECTOR, FINANCIAL TIMES

- How important is it to include online, mobile and tablet elements in today's advertising campaigns?

We know that an integrated approach to advertising helps clients reach business audiences faster, engage them more deeply and make their spend work harder. We also believe in using all relevant channels available - mobile being a big part of that mix. More than 80 per cent of the global business elite now use a smartphone and almost 30 per cent already use a tablet device, so advertising opportunities here are clearly significant. In terms of a surround message, we see tablet usage in particular shoot up during evenings and weekends, making it a perfect complement in the media day to print and desktop. It's also a more personal and interactive medium and the user is in a more curious frame of mind.

- Has the advertising industry harnessed the rapid spread of tablet and mobile devices?

In general, I would say yes: most publishers have a mobile presence of one sort or another, and the interest we have seen from the client side has gone from almost zero a couple of years ago to verging on ever-present in conversations today. To truly harness the potential of tablets and mobile, advertisers need to have a clear set of analytics around precisely who is using various mobile sites and apps, and how. Publishers that can provide good insight will probably rise to the top in this field.

- What is the limiting factor when it comes to developing this type of advertising?

There are probably three main limiting factors that we detect - and let's remember that this is nascent technology in the wider scheme of things. First, clients are somewhat struggling to get their own mobile strategy right: understandably, there's reticence to use a platform if the full user experience from advertisement to client site isn't really smooth. Second, we hear that a lack of clear performance analytics can be a problem. Finally, and tied to both previous points, clients seem to struggle a little with the creative approach - both in terms of what to say and, technically, how to say it. However, as standards emerge, I think these hurdles can easily be overcome.

- What do publishers need to do to stay ahead in such a fast-moving game?

I think publishers need to do two things: think differently, and invest. If you want to be serious about mobile, you can't just take your traditional model of publishing and stick it on a mobile device. You have to take into account the differences in how content is consumed and you need specialist development resource. We were delighted to announce the recent acquisition of Assanka - our partner behind the widely acknowledged HTML5 web app - because we are serious about FT content being available on whatever device our users choose, and this really shores up our development roadmap for the future.

- Is the gap widening between premium publishing brands and mainstream media, and what will it look like in the future?

If you look at the history of emerging digital platforms, advertising rapidly becomes commoditised, although it's also true that premium brands with quality content and strong market positioning can stay disassociated from any price race to the bottom. I suspect the same will become true of mobile and tablets. If you can provide something unique (be it audience, content or advertising opportunity), then mobile and tablet publishing has a great future for you. And if you can strengthen your investment opportunity by diversifying revenue streams, advertising as well as subscription being the obvious areas, then so much the better.

JAMES HARRIS - CHIEF DIGITAL OFFICER, UM EMEA & G14 MARKETS

- How important is it to include online, mobile and tablet elements in today's advertising campaigns?

In short, I think it's very important. However, it's equally important to ensure that the motivation for doing so starts with proper consumer insight and strategy. It must not be a case of just doing it for the sake of it. Assuming it does make sense, then I think an approach of integration over replication should be adopted. The idea of simply sticking a banner or press ad on a tablet, given the creative potential mobile media offers, is missing the point. In addition, the potential to leverage multi-screen use and behaviour is already here, as evidenced by the recent tie-in between Sky and Zeebox, and further adds to the importance of leveraging these digital channels not just together but also alongside traditional media.

- Has the advertising industry harnessed the rapid spread of tablet and mobile devices?

To date, I would say not. The new opportunities and formats, especially those offered by HTML5, are extremely exciting and full of potential, especially from a brand perspective. However, the need to deliver multi-channel campaigns, a lack of scale (especially around tablets), not to mention the creative challenges and requirements these new formats bring, at present mean that, from an advertising stance, the industry is not yet moving at the same speed as consumers.

- What is the limiting factor when it comes to developing this type of advertising?

I think there are two issues at present, the first of which is a technical one. While HTML5 offers new and exciting possibilities for mobile and tablets, at the moment a large number of existing PC browsers do not support this technology. Add to this the notoriously slow update cycle on browsers, and you have a situation where any integrated and scaled campaign across web and mobile devices will, in reality, need two creative solutions. The second issue exists around who will drive these new areas. Should it be the media or creative agency, the digital or press department, the display or mobile experts? In theory, this should not be an issue, though in reality it is - and very much remains one that needs to be resolved.

- What do publishers need to do to stay ahead in such a fast-moving game?

It's an obvious answer, but the ability to react and change quickly is key here. I believe that, to succeed, companies need to be willing to take some risks and also be prepared to fail as well as succeed in the spirit of test and learn. As has often been the case in history, the ability to embrace and leverage the new is often limited by the current. Unless companies can embrace radical changes to advertising formats and models, then there is a danger that the approach becomes one of replicate not innovate - something that we know did the early days of mobile advertising no favours at all.

- Is the gap widening between premium publishing brands and mainstream media, and what will it look like in the future?

I think a better way to look at this is to consider how technology can reduce or completely remove this gap and actually make the mainstream premium. Through the application of data and technology, it should be possible to make any media channel highly targeted, and move to an audience-driven model where, in theory, any media can be made to work for premium brands. While at present this is mainly happening in digital, in the future (as all media moves to a digital delivery engine) we should see this trend expand into what we consider to be more traditional and mainstream channels such as television.

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