There Is No Mobile Experience: The Key to Understanding Mobile Data


by Mike O’Brien

An Advertising Week panel on mobilizing data agreed that the most important thing to keep in mind is that there is no mobile experience. Mobile is now so omnipresent that there are many different experiences.

Mobile data mystifies many marketers, but the key to solving the puzzle is realizing that there is no such thing as “the mobile experience.”

Though it’s a common expression, the general consensus at Mobilizing Data, a panel discussion during Advertising Week, was that there is no one mobile experience. Our mobile devices have become such an integral part of our everyday lives that there are many different mobile experiences.

“We tend to think about the mobile experience as singular,” said Dr. JT Kostman, chief data officer for Time, Inc. “The experience you have with your mobile device at the gym is hopefully different than the one you have in a bubble bath.”

Pandora collects 85 percent of its data from mobile devices. According to Dave Smith, the music platform’s vice president of monetization and yield, Pandora segments its various data sets in order to make its advertising as tailored as possible.

“We do create different experiences on mobile than we create on desktop or for in a car,” said Smith. “Differentiating those experiences based on the user, the time of day, and what they’re doing is hugely valuable both to the listener and the advertiser.”

The entire panel agreed that the user experience should be the centerpiece of collecting mobile data. However, not everyone agreed on the biggest challenge that comes with doing so.

Smith named “bringing data sources from a cookie world into the mobile world and, in our case, the mobile in-app world” as an obstacle for Pandora. Adam Guy, vice president of marketing development at analytics company Neustar, agreed, noting that there are only so many desktop browsers, while there are millions of apps. Andy Fisher, chief analytics officer at data-focused agency Merkle, was much more blunt.

“The biggest challenge we have with data is not data,” said Fisher. “The biggest challenge we have is that the advertising experience with mobile, with very few exceptions, is generally awful.

“If we don’t make the experience better, people are going to block us. And if people block us, the data is not going to matter,” he added. “We have to think about data and experiential work as two sides of the same coin, and really focus on getting the experience right and creating ads that people will at least tolerate.”

To create better experiences, Andy Hibbler, vice president of brand marketing and advertising at Whitepages, said more transparency is necessary. He said marketers should “become honest custodians of the data and realize we don’t own the data. Once we’ve gotten that trust, what we can do is take that data to deliver better ads and better experiences, and [consumers will] accept us going down the road.”

Kostman added that, “We forget that advertising done right can be content.”