IAB sets up mobile hub, outlines year ahead

Rosie Baker
By Rosie Baker | 27 January 2015

The IAB is setting up a Mobile Excellence Centre to help close the gap between time spent on mobile by consumers and the advertising dollars invested in the channel. It’s just one of the things on the IAB’s agenda for 2015.

AdNews sat down with IAB CEO Alice Manners and chair Ed Harrison, also CEO of Yahoo!7, to talk about what they would focus on for the year ahead. Mobile is key.

“A lot of agencies are still grappling with what they do and that’s where we can play a role," said Manners.

There is the biggest disparity between time and dollars spent on mobile than any other channel, and addressing this balance from every aspect is the driver of the mobile centre of excellence.

Harrison said in part, the aim is to aggregate the information about mobile that's already out there. Globally the IAB has a global centre of excellence but this will be market specific with resources dedicated to the Australian market’s specific challenges and dynamics.

“Creating a mobile centre of excellence, there’s a few things that sit under that. Part of it is simply aggregating lots of  information. Part of it is a communications job in terms of advertising agencies and understanding where mobile is, and understanding … the degree to which audiences have moved,” he said.

“Although everyone knows this is happening, I don’t think everyone appreciates the speed at which it is. It's happened – it’s not happening - we're there. So there’s a comms job to be done."

Creativity bites

There are two challenges in mobile though, in the IAB's view. One, most obviously is measurement. This is in train with the Nielsen mobile measurement data due to roll out this year. The other, less tangible and less obvious for the IAB’s agenda, is creativity.

The IAB already runs the Creative Showcase series, a bi-monthly event for agency creatives to submit work, and then discuss it with other creatives. It’s been running four or five years, says Manners, but will ramp up this year. The winning entries then get entered into the IAB MIXX Awards. Last year Australian creatives took home the second highest number of awards outside the US. The IAB will also focus more on the global IAB Rising Star program.

“It’s not just about taking what you’re using on desktop and applying it to mobile. Mobile video has been an interesting area, understanding the right length of video, and the format. We’ve got so caught up in the data and the programmatic side of things that the beautiful brand story has got a little lost. It’s not one size fits all and the brand story needs to come out a little more,” said Manners.

So while creativity might not seem a natural fit for the IAB, it’s been part of what they do for a while.

“It’s an area that we’ve always been very interested in and thought was important for the health of the industry, but in the past it’s been predominantly about the desktop space,” said Harrison.

While creativity isn’t the first topic that springs to mind alongside the IAB, it’s reflective of its shifting member base and priorities, and the changing industry it represents.

The organisation’s members are no longer just publishers. Members are from all aspects of the industry – publishers, agencies, client side marketers and ad tech suppliers, but the IAB is not looking to compete with other member organisations.

Harrison said: “t’s phenomenal how the body has changed. It really moved from a fairly narrow remit around that publisher group and now it’s something incredibly broad and truly represents the entire industry. So I think really we probably turned a bit of a corner in terms of our thinking.”

The IAB is also working closely with other bodies including the Media Federation (MFA) and the Australian Association of national Advertisers (AANA).

It has set up the snappily titled IAB MFA Advisory Group, the Agency Advisory Board for short, in recognition that the agency scene is a growing interest for the IAB, it works with The Newspaper Works around measurement and collaborates with other member bodies on other issues.

“The IAB is a global network and it’s beautifully clear in its remit and its purpose. The IAB has a role and will always have a role across that fundamental purpose. Where we need to collaborate is around the fact that everything is becoming digital and now it’s not just about digital dollars. It’s about how we look across platforms.

Ad tech, multiplatform and mobile

Ad tech is another growing area of membership for the IAB and Harrison believes that the organisation has a responsibility to grow its role within. Whether it’s establishing best practice and guidelines for that rapidly changing aspect of industry or helping as the conduit between advertisers, agencies and ad tech providers.

“It’s the stuff that isn’t usually high profile. It’s stuff that a lot of people wouldn’t recognise as work that’s being done, it’s not sexy, it doesn’t create headlines, but it requires a lot of focus. [Ad tech players] are crying out for an organisation that helps agree various standards and simplify the industry and makes it easier for advertisers to get involved,” he said.

Manners added: “Ad tech is such an incredibly confusing area for marketers. And so if we can help, not simplify it but explain it, and also to showcase the innovation and relevancy of ad tech and the possibilities that it brings through automation - it’s kind of needed because everything is getting mixed up at the moment.

“We talk about the data that comes out of it but we don’t talk about the technology which provides that. When you look at the areas of brand safety, there’s a lot of technology in that area.”


On the measurement front, viewability – and what it actually means – is going to be another key area for advertisers and the IAB this year. It’s a complex matter and one that is already misunderstood.

Google has made noises already this year about “turbo-charging” online ads with viewability reports for advertisers http://www.adnews.com.au/news/google-to-turbo-charge-video-ads-with-viewability-reports and claimed at the end of 2014 that more than half (56%) of online ads aren’t seen.

Manners says ideally, the IAB wants to carry out market specific research in Australia to find out exactly how much of inventory is viewable and is in the process of developing a best practice guide for agencies and advertisers here.

Cross platform measurement is also key for the IAB this year. The roll out of its new cross platform measurement service with Nielsen is due mid year alongside the mobile measurement tool. Many publishers have already crossed over and are seeing more than half of traffic come from mobile – early indicators are that in many cases up to 75% of traffic is now on mobile.

Harrison said: “There's an enormous appetite to better understand that cross platform consumer experience and the effect of campaigns across these platforms. And it’s really accelerated this year with the acceleration of video and the acceleration in mobile."

In mobile, Manners believes the Australian market should be proud of where it is. Far from the common perception that we are far behind the US and the UK, Australia is actually out in front.

“Going through the tender process here which was an incredibly smooth process with great results, I saw first hand where we are as an incredibly mature market and our expectations are beyond the rest of the world. So a global 'one size fits all' didn’t work for this market. Australia is an incredibly social market more so than US and other mature markets and hence that need for that understanding of mobile was important. So we’ve kind of gone, ‘This is what we need. We need it now’. We will invest to make that happen.”

Read more on Ed Harrison in the first print issue of AdNews – out 6 February. You can subscribe to the print magazine here.  You can also download individual issues on the iPad here.

Have something to say on this? Share your views in the comments section below. Or if you have a news story or tip-off, drop me a line at rosiebaker@yaffa.com.au

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