Tapjoy Chairman Steve Wadsworth On The New Golden Age Of Mobile Ads

Tapjoy’s Steve Wadsworth thinks mobile ads are driving a creative resurgence unseen since the 1960s.

Tapjoy’s Steve Wadsworth is quite a busy guy. He’s actively transitioning from CEO to Chairman of the Board, but that hasn’t stopped him from sharing new thoughts about a major resurgence of ad creative — something Steve believes was inevitable thanks to mobile technologies.

“When the internet came along in the 1990s, advertisers saw it as a chance to reach more consumers more cost-effectively than ever before,” Steve explained in a recent Forbes article. “Advertising became more about volume and efficiency than branding and creativity, and as programmatic automation took over, as it has throughout the last decade, that divide only deepened.”

To Steve, this dynamic was a stark contrast to the Mad Men-styled golden age of advertising in the 1950s and 60s. Brands had far more freedom to experiment with ad creative, and while not every advertisement worked, those that did were engaging and memorable.

Yet Steve’s experiences with Tapjoy led him to believe a new golden age is underway. While his full article explores this trend in detail, we’d like to highlight a few key examples:

Smartphone hardware opens new technological possibilities

The standard magazine or television set doesn’t come with touchscreens, accelerometers, or gyroscopes. Yet the standard smartphone includes all of these technologies — and in the hands of advertisers, they are remarkable creative tools.

“There remains a blue-sky opportunity for marketers willing to push technical boundaries to develop high-impact, high-engagement ads for their products,” Steve says. “It takes an intimate understanding of brand identity and a comprehensive grasp of technology. But that particular combination is becoming more common as a growing number of digital-first millennials grow in their careers, bringing with them a wealth of environmental knowledge that can be brought to bear on the modern advertising landscape.”

More creative formats, more creative flexibility

Mobile advertising is unique because advertisers do not have to rely on a single creative format. Interactive videos, rich media, playables, and other creatives can all be used alongside each other and target specific audiences.

“When consumers can tap, swipe, pinch, flip and do a number of other maneuvers with their screens to interact with ad content, there’s no end to the ways that advertisers can engage their audiences,” Steve notes. “And while some advertisers are using rich media ads in basic yet effective ways, such as to showcase a carousel of their product images, others are using them to offer mini-games and other types of unique content experiences that are so engaging they almost don’t feel like ads.”

TV is passive, but mobile apps drive interaction

The vast majority of advertising was passively consumed until quite recently. With the debut of new creative formats mentioned above, the interactive potential of advertising has grown immensely.

“With mobile about to surpass TV for consumers’ time spent, apps are becoming a primary vehicle for ad delivery,” Steve explains. “While TV is a completely passive experience, mobile apps — and mobile games in particular — require consumers to interact with the content, making it a much more active, engaging experience. We’ve found that mobile gamers are nearly twice as likely to feel engaged and three times as likely to feel focused when compared to users of social media apps.”

You can read the full article for more of Steve’s thoughts, but one thing is clear: we’ve only just scratched the surface of what mobile ad creative can accomplish.

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