The six second sweet spot: Opera Mediaworks' Mark Slade on WAP and Walter White

Will Railton
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Ad-tech companies need to be offering something clever, says Slade

Consumers may be spending more and more time on their mobiles, but the advertising industry has had a hard time convincing brands to follow them there. Now, things could be looking up.

By the end of 2016, eMarketer estimates that mobile advertising will account for half of the £8.94bn spent on digital marketing in the UK. But we are a market leader. “Other markets in the EMEA region, even Germany, are not quite there,” explains Mark Slade, managing director of EMEA at Opera Mediaworks. “There are real differences between countries in terms of mobile advertising. The market in South Africa is less developed, but as a percentage of spend, mobile features prominently.”

He tells City A.M. why mobile will become an entertainment device and how to make a good mobile video ad.

How did you get into mobile?

I worked for M&C Saatchi as a digital planner, and I moved to O2 just as they were releasing the first WAP [wireless application protocol] sites. WAP was terrible. By the time you had managed to connect, Liverpool would have let in another three goals. But internet display ads were taking off at the time and you could see that this – mobile “on the move” – was the future.

So I set up 4th Screen Advertising in 2007, to provide media advertising solutions for sites, allowing them to monetise. I sold to Opera in 2012, as the company was investing heavily in mobile.

Now, my role is to bring together all the mobile tech, platform companies and mobile ad networks we’ve bought onto the same platform, and take out a unified message to media agencies and publishers.

How can ad-tech companies make better video ads?

Ad-tech companies need to be offering something clever at the ad request level. That could be a format, a creative enrichment of an ad request, or collecting data to build meaningful audiences.

Programmatic buying has been hailed as the death knell of the advertising network as a middle man between brands and publishers. We don’t see it like that at all. On so many sites and apps, the video ads are terrible. Opera Mediaworks is building data-driven audiences and using cool formats in creative to deliver HD quality video adverts on your handset, which has been pre-loaded before you see the advert on a page.

Apps were built because publishers didn’t build websites which were tailored to be accessed on a mobile device. And ads apps have the scope to be much cooler than in mobile web. We can make use of your mobile’s camera, for example, to make the creative more personalised, which is much better than re-purposing a desktop ad for a mobile device.

The execution should be different, and so should the creative. We’ve done a study into short-form video. Understandably, audiences don’t appreciate having to sit through a 30 second video ad so they can view content or play a game. And we found that a six to eight second video ad was an optimal trade-off for both parties.

With desktops in decline, how will we approach different devices?

I think that desktop will remain your productivity device, and mobile will be your entertainment device. Think of Walter White from Breaking Bad. He’s a high-school chemistry teacher by day, and a drug dealer by night. People’s activity on their desktop is very different from their mobile. And from an advertising perspective, you can better understand consumers’ interests from their mobiles.

Which of your markets have taken to mobile most quickly?

Turkey is actually one of the most advanced mobile ad markets in the region. It may be that their agencies are more innovative around new channels, or because of the quality of our team out there – we have a high market share so we can control the value chain more.

Closer to home, Scandinavia got into mobile a lot quicker and adopted mobile internet sites with more of a responsive design, while Germany and the UK rely on applications much more.

But every market is still in a developmental stage. Seven years ago there was no money being spent on mobile. Britain is leading the way in terms of the percentage of digital spend which is going on mobile – around 55 per cent. But if you consider the time consumers spend on their mobiles as opposed to other channels, the amount brands spend on mobile advertising is nowhere near proportionate.

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