Fewer handsets, more agencies: key takeaways from MWC

Juice Mobile CEO Neil Sweeney on the ad tech trends that emerged from the Mobile World Congress.

By Neil Sweeney

I can’t remember any previous year at Mobile World Congress where there was less of a focus on handsets than in 2015. With some manufactures (like Samsung) looking for a new identity and a batch of new low-cost providers entering the fray (ZTE and Xiaomi), if there was a clear trend in Barcelona it is that the handset war has been replaced with a new battleground – the wrist.

LG and Huawei were top of mind with their stylish releases but the underlying theme was about upstarts trying to get their product in market prior to the release of the Apple Watch. It is fair to say that every marketer, come Q2 or Q3, will be asking how their brand will be playing in wearables.

Outside of the hardware releases, there was another clear ad tech trend: the transactional layer that has dominated the ad tech landscape for the past number of years is now blending into the background and is being replaced by a larger focus on data, or more specifically, how data and attribution can be added to traditional programmatic buys.

Demand-side platforms (DSPs), no longer able to differentiate based on a real-time buying technology stack (RTB), are scrambling to find a niche by focusing on the massive amounts of data that are being generated by their systems and how their algorithm is superior to their competitors. Media agencies, who were more visible this year than ever before at Mobile World Congress, will continue to embrace these tactics as they look for a smarter buy and one that is more automated than ever before.

_D8A2376 Supplementing the fixation on data is a resurgence of unique creative. With last year’s trend of video having run its course, brands and agencies are looking to differentiate once again by using unique ad units that can be transacted programmatically. These rich media units are increasingly being executed using programmatic direct platforms, an emerging tool in the ad tech space, that integrate into the ad servers of the publishers to avoid fraudulent inventory. Rich media and programmatic direct are also bringing back focus on premium inventory that is dominated by the big publishing groups.

Mobile marketing is no longer the “cost per install” market it was in the past. The big pivot in the space is how the brand dollars are now entering the ecosystem – fast. This is posing a challenge to the traditional players in the space as the industry is looking to solve a different challenge but struggling with the ad units and technology available to them. Using the same strategy and platform to drive a $1 install of a game is very different than trying to influence the purchase of a $90,000 car.

This gap will undoubtedly lead to massive change in the coming years as traditional ad units and technology will be replaced by new companies and activation-based marketing techniques powered by devices and technologies such as Bluetooth, beacons, LTE direct and wearables.

There is no avoiding the presence of The Internet of Things (IoT). Every car on display, every appliance, every wearable is connected. There is no such thing as a non-connected product in the future. Those responsible for marketing these products will need to understand how mobile has been injected into their products’ DNA and how they can market to people who use these products.

Mobile has come a long way from carrier WAP decks and SMS. We are now in the middle of the ad years but the industry is quickly preparing for its next evolution to IoT. The largest challenge is whether brands and media agencies can keep up with the technology that is tripping over itself because of how quickly it is evolving. Innovate or die is the message every marketer, vendor or advertising agency must take to heart from 2015 MWC.

Neil Sweeney is president and CEO, Juice Mobile and Freckle IoT

Mobile World Congress images courtesy of Mobile World Congress.