INSIGHT: Can digital media make advertising use of wearables?

“Many in the digital media community are scratching their heads and wondering what they can do with wearables – wondering if they are stretch too far or whether they can fulfil a useful purpose."

While there were no big digital media announcements at MWC15, talk heightened about how wearables and beacons could be used to enrich impressions in the context of mobile advertising – and deliver a higher premium to in-app ad publishers.

So much so that according to Guillermo Escofet, Senior Analyst, Digital Media, Ovum, the Internet-of-things (IoT) and wearables dominated the agenda at this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

“There was little in the way of digital media-related announcements at the show,” Escofet adds, “given MWC is primarily a telco show, after all.

“But even what there was to say about consumer digital services was relatively paltry compared with the greater focus on enterprise services.

“The emphasis was more on the “plumbing” behind services than about the consumer-facing stuff – even though there were some gimmicky examples of the latter that probably got more press coverage than they deserved.”

With IoT and wearables dominating as they did, Escofet says there was some discussion among the digital media companies at the show about how these emerging technologies could be harnessed to provide more context and relevance to services delivered to consumers.

One of the concepts mooted at the show was that of Bluetooth-low-energy (BLE) beacons acting as the cookies of the m-commerce world – tracking users as they move from one brick-and-mortar store to another and one part of a store to another.

“A company that has latched onto this idea is RevMob, a Brazilian mobile games developer-cum-mobile advertising network best known for its smash-hit casual game Ant Smasher,” Escofet adds.

“RevMob now makes most of its revenue as an ad network and was at the show peddling a more targetable form of in-app advertising enabled by shopper data collected via beacons.

“The ads would not be immediately actionable offers delivered in-store to users’ smartphone lock-screens or m-commerce apps, as is often pictured with beacon-based advertising.”

Rather, Escofet says the idea is to enable a higher-premium form of in-app ads, delivered at any time to any kind of app. In RevMob’s case, it would be primarily mobile games, since they largely make up its ad network.

RevMob has partnered with beacons network Beintoo – which has connections with most of the main beacon manufacturers and several big retailers – to enable beacon data to be fed back to RevMob’s platform.

“There was also behind-the-scenes talk at the show about harnessing user data from wearables to deliver higher-premium in-app ads,” Escofet adds.

“In an example given to me during a conversation I had with advertising supply-side-platform Pubmatic, a user who has just hit his calorie-burn target, measured via the health-and-fitness app on his smartwatch, could be served a doughnuts or cake ad when he is next in an in-app environment on his smartphone.

“This is not something Pubmatic is offering; nor necessarily is anyone else either. But it is bubbling up as a concept.”

In summary, Escofet believes many in the digital media community are scratching their heads and wondering what they can do with wearables – wondering if they are stretch too far or whether they can fulfil a useful purpose.

“Perhaps some of the first uses will be seen around mobile advertising,” he speculates.

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