Starcom MediaVest SVP, Director Dan Bruinsma on the Future of Mobile Advertising

At Starcom MediaVest, Dan Bruinsma serves as the head of the Mobile Center of Excellence, where he leads a team focused on building training programs, publishing agency best practices, and consulting across the client roster on a variety of business challenges. Mobile Media Summit CEO & Founder Paran Johar got the chance to catch up with Dan before he joins us as a speaker for Mobile Media Summit Chicago on July 28.
Paran: Thanks for joining us, Dan. Let’s start with some open questions. What are you excited about for mobile in the coming year? What changes do you expect to see?
Dan: I’m excited about the mobile device continuing to entrench itself as the remote control of the consumer’s life. The more that IoT’s becomes real, the more that consumers are going to look for easier ways to control all these connected devices. The smartphone and its well-designed apps are going to be the answer.

I’m also expecting to see more and more advertisers and creative agencies really embracing the right way to build messaging for the mobile ecosystem. We are still somewhere early on the continuum where people are building ads primarily for desktop display and then trying to translate them into mobile environments. The more that advertisers see they need to concept for mobile first, the better the advertising experiences will become in the space. Creative improves, performance improves, media investments climb…it should be a virtuous cycle for mobile media.
Paran: You work at one of the largest media buying companies in the world, so I’m curious to know if clients are really and truly behind mobile as a key part of their marketing mix. Are they finally comfortable with mobile?
Dan: I don’t think there is any doubt that our clients are really and truly behind mobile. That said, there are some real challenges in the space that prevent huge ramps in spend. Prominently among the challenges is the inability to seamlessly take their existing third party ad verification services and point them at their mobile investments. Whether it be vCE, IAS/Moat or other tools that have helped them stay brand safe, in-view, in-target etc. in other digital media, those solutions just are not fully there yet in mobile. So the industry has adopted these solutions to confront the challenges of non-human traffic, viewability, brand safety and the like, and wants to fully bring them to their mobile investments but simply cannot today.

I think one of the other challenges that eComm clients specifically have is with proper attribution in the mobile space. I’m optimistic that new solutions on the ad server side as well as in-house ad tech solutions like RUN (recently acquired by Publicis) will help clients see the cross-device, cookie-less path that frequently robs mobile of proper value and begin ramping investments in the space. Today, those clients who have not invested significantly in in-app measurement, cookie-less solutions and building their own device graphs mapped to CRM are just not seeing what mobile is actually driving in value. As companies like Doubleclick start to natively bring cross-device attribution to their existing stack it will make it easier for clients to see the true value of mobile – and then spend more in mobile with known ROI. Today if they are spending up in mobile, it’s on faith.
Paran: The pace of change in digital, especially mobile, is difficult to keep up with. How do you stay up to speed as an individual and within your teams to make sure you are presenting the right solutions to your clients?
Dan: I think first and foremost you need to be naturally curious and fascinated by the devices themselves. If you have a burden to always have the latest devices and be using them to their fullest, you’ll be out front with the consumers who are early adopters. While I’m not always the first person in the agency to get every new type of wearable device and the like, I’m certainly asking LOTS of questions to those who are about their experiences and trying to put it into some sort of framework where I can see a human experience for a brand.

With respect to ensuring we are bringing the right solutions for our clients I think we have the benefit of the way our agency teams are structured. We don’t just have technologists or just media buyers or just media strategists running point on this. We are working in concert as a team to unearth and evaluate opportunities. If I have this new whiz bang connected appliance I think Kellogg’s should be embracing, that technology opportunity gets married with intimate knowledge of the brand challenge by the Starcom Design specialists to ensure it meets a consumer and client need.
Paran: Finally, what is the best way for digital ad technology vendors to approach you? What will get a second look, and what is ignored?
Dan: Yeah, it’s a good question. I guess first I would say that partners need to be self-aware. If you are an ad network of some kind or another you should recognize that you are in a crowded space and you should lead with the thing you think is most differentiated. In order to break through the inbox and get a meeting, I’d lead with the thing that is unique about what your company does. There are just too many companies out there in the space who are actually vaporware and just a sales front end for someone else’s back end.

Secondly, I’ll say that I’m a huge fan of simple presentations that have you whipping out your own device to see the product live. If something can be presented ‘in the wild’ vs. on a PowerPoint slide I give it a lot more credit. Anyone can put together a PPT slide that says they have a proprietary this or a best in class that…rather, let’s look at it together. If it’s an ad experience, where is it live right now? If it’s powerful targeting technology, let’s pull up the UI and build a campaign right now. I’m really weary of having to feign interest for the first part of a meeting or call before the suspicions I’m riddled with start seeping out. Try to set the table from the start with something material that engenders trust, now you’ve got me leaning forward.