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  • Writer's pictureCraig

Mobile-first advertising : the ultimate guide

Do you want to reach the right people, on the right device, with the right type of advert - and in turn drive the best results possible?

In this article we will examine the rise of mobile content, the dominance of social media platforms, and give you a guide on how to create a mobile-first campaign.

A guide for mobile first advertising: how to advertise for mobile.

“TV is dead.”

“TV is alive and well.”

There are contrasting opinions in the advertising industry as to the future of TV, as well as other traditional mediums such as print. It’s widely accepted that a mixed asset approach, across a variety of platforms and formats is still the best way to reach a wide audience - but for some that’s just not possible.

The advertising landscape is facing one of the most exciting shifts of recent times; moving ever-further from passive, traditional means to more interactive, mobile formats. With the rise of social media platforms, it means that smaller, local businesses have the ability to compete against well-established global brands – as long as they have a well-defined social media strategy in place.

According to Ebuiqity, there is a suggestion that TV may no longer be the reliable method for widescale reach, as it once was.

“Our analysis predicts that by 2022 there will be a 15% to 20% decline in TV ad viewing across adults, with even steeper declines of between 30% and 45% for key audiences ‘Housepersons with Children’ and 16-34 year olds, respectively.”

– Ebiquity Report, Jan 2019, ‘Is TV approaching a tipping pont for reach?’

With the fall of reach on television it opens up even further the importance of social media and digital platforms. So why think mobile-first, you may ask?

There are over 5.1 billion unique mobile users worldwide, and over 3.25 billion of those using social media on their mobile devices, therefore it’s imperative to craft campaigns and create content that is produced with mobile consumption in mind. On top of those impressive numbers mobile culture has spread – as such studies have been done that reveal that 94% of people keep a smartphone with them whilst watching TV, with Facebook use tripling during ad breaks. This shows the possibility of advertising on mobile, and whilst companies spend millions on making and distributing TV ads, people are consciously checking their phones looking at influencers and branded content that they care actually about.

Facebook audience insights
Facebook audience insights, demonstrating the amount of people who use mobile devices across Facebook and Instagram in the UK (97% of the audience in total).

Of course, there are other social platforms as well as other mobile content types, but the above is a great example that demonstrates the use of mobile devices across two of the biggest platforms (Facebook and Instagram). Facebook and Instagram, as well as other large platforms like Snapchat and Twitter, have started to take note of the mass appeal of social network use on mobile devices.

Another advantage of social platforms is the ability to target more thoroughly, and go live with content at a moment’s notice – allowing for reactive and dynamic messaging.

internet use on mobile 2019
The rise of internet use on mobile devices: credit to Hootsuite and We Are Social.

So that’s why you need to be thinking mobile-first, but now perhaps you’re wondering how to make a mobile-first campaign? We’re going to focus on social media campaigns as a base for these tips.

Here are 10 tips on creating a mobile-first campaign.

Let's go!

#1 Set your objectives

Your budget will of course have some indication of what your realistic objectives are going to be – but it essentially you want to set your objective to be one (or two/three) of the following areas:


Objectives: Reach / views

Driving your brand, products or its message to people. This tends to be the go to for brand building and new product launches. This allows you to create an audience that have seen your ads, that you can then re-target with follow up messages. These adverts tend to be short-form videos (3-15 seconds) or images.

Engagement / Consideration

Objectives: clicks / time-spent

This is encouraging people to interact with you / your brand. This can include simple and fun ad types like Instagram polls, or more in-depth content types like messenger bots, AR lenses or Instant Experiences.

The more time people spend with your brand, the more likely (with the right advertising), that it will improve consideration and brand recall.


Objectives: sign-ups / sales

Social media platforms are trying to essentially eradicate the need for shoppers to ever leave their homes. You can now build stores on social platforms and include links to products through your posts – such as the example below.

#2 Find a strong creative idea

It doesn’t matter how good your ads are, it doesn’t matter if you listen to all of the best practice and create an amazing video if your creative idea at the heart of it is rubbish.

In the advertising industry creative is still king. There are various books and courses that will give you more information on creative development, but if you find a good creative or creative director that understands the briefs, keep hold of them as best you can.

The best campaigns that I’ve been involved with have all came from a key insight. If you are able to find an insight, an interesting data point or human truth that will resonate with your audience, then you’re half the way towards a winning campaign that can also help to drive PR.

#3 Choose your platforms and formats

Once you’ve got a good idea down, what comes next?

It’s time to think about how you can execute the idea across social media platforms for mobile. The traditional way to do this is to write or ideate a hero piece (such as a video script), and then supporting content around it. However, knowing that you’re crafting a campaign for mobile consumption, you should consider how the idea breaks down across the platforms available for you, as well as the ad units that the idea might fit well across.

A list of social media platforms for mobile.
Is your idea well suited to a video bumper ad on YouTube? Stories or in-feed across Facebook and Instagram? Conversation ads on Twitter? Perhaps it’s something more interactive on Snapchat? This is your time to define the ad units.

#4 Consider the vertical frame when ideating

So, you know what your idea is, you know that you want to do in-feed – for example, perhaps you’ve decided you want to do Instagram Stories and a Messenger bot - now comes the pre-production element to help shift it from something that exists in your head or in a strategy deck and out in to storyboards.

Below are a few examples of things that work well when considering framing for mobile, and then some things that don’t work quite so well and provide challenges. With the latter, it is not a case of they will not work for mobile – more that you need to consider how they will be shot, and whether you will need to utilise executions like stacking (where you stack two or more horizontal shots on top of each other to fill the vertical frame).

What works well in the vertical frame


Giraffes! (and other tall animals)

Low and tall views

Top down views

Any vertical movement

What doesn’t work so well

Horizontal movement

Horizontal objects - like the side of cars

Widescreen frames

Sideward actions, etc

Stacking on Instagram or Facebook for mobile
An example of splitting the vertical screen using stacking.

Monica Kim, an Instagram creator, gave a good piece of advice around creative development for mobile. When discussing animating a vertical video she said “the most important things are the aesthetics - it almost brought me back to the exercise of making posters.”

#5 Produce with a mobile-first mentality

Now that you’ve designed your storyboard and you know which shots you’re looking out for, it’s go-time with either adapting, designing, animating, coding, or shooting your content for mobile.

In all of these you should look out for strong vertical features in the composition of the shot that can give reason for it to exist in the vertical format. After all we are creating for the mobile screen, rather than adapting.

If you’re shooting and you want to capture content for all aspect ratios (for example YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram Stories), then you should consider a safe zone in the middle where all of the action takes place. This allows you to film wider and capture all of the content for the wider frame, but then also not lose any important action in the vertical crop.

safe area for mobile. Vertical filming on social media

#6 Innovate

Innovative, interactive units are the hot-topics at the moment. Recently, Facebook announced the introduction of in-feed poll, gaming, and AR ads. It provides a huge opportunity for brands to create playful content, without the need to spend lots of money on apps. In fact, a lot of people who are savvy with computers can probably get their head around Facebook’s Spark AR Studio, which allows you to import media and turn it in to a lens for Facebook and Instagram.

Other options include bespoke options creating messenger bots, simple web games, 360 videos, and potentially in the near future there may be more opportunities for VR due to the partnership between Oculus and Facebook.

#7 Grab attention


Any of those would probably grab most people’s attention. But if the creative idea doesn’t include pets, babies, or food, then maybe you need to think a little outside of the box.

On social platforms for video you have a stat called view through rate (VTR) which is the percentage of people who watch your video all of the way through. Now, the longer the video, generally the smaller the view through rate is – makes sense, right?

So, generally people advise to keep videos as short as possible, so that viewers take in as much of the video as possible. This is a great idea if you just want to put a product in front of someone, or post a fun cat GIF, but it’s not always possible. What you need to do is capture attention straight away and give people a reason to stop scrolling through their feed or swiping between stories.

mobile story arc for social media narrative
The mobile story arc for social media, which differs from the more traditional slow build with content with a reveal towards the end. This starts high, gets the brand/message across early, and then includes multiple shifts/peaks throughout.

#8 Brand effectively

Many people think you need to put your logo up-front on mobile content, but it can be done in a much more effective manner. Branding is more than a logo, it’s also your product, colours, fonts, or even a specific art direction.

The reason you’d want to include your brand early is to make sure that if someone only sees a second or two of your ad that they then link it back to you/your business, which will help to increase brand recall and eventually drive conversions.


- Land your brand within the first 2 seconds.

- Try to brand naturally.

- Don’t put people off by just putting your logo everywhere.

- Is there an artistic style that could be included that people will remember and link to your business?

branding example from nutmeg
This example snapshot from a Nutmeg video demonstrates an effective use of colour and art direction that creates a link between the post and the brand. It also utilises a character that after people have seen multiple adverts may begin to link to the brand.

#9 Utilise platform best practices

Platforms let you know what performs best on their channels, so you should try your best to make sure you’re following them.

Have a look on the specifications part of each platform for more information, but the image below will give you a quick overview of the most popular formats on Facebook and Instagram.

Best practice specs for ad units on Facebook/Instagram
Best practice specs for video ad units on Facebook/Instagram

#10 Test and learn

One of the most powerful things that social media channels let you do is A/B testing, otherwise known as split testing.

When producing ads, create multiple versions – perhaps change the font, change the framing, change the narrative, essentially you want to change one thing between them, and then test them against each other to see which gets the most views, the most clicks, etc. This allows you to test different variants, and learn what performs best – meaning that when it comes to the next campaign, you already know what works well with your audience.

Hopefully this article has helped to give you some insight in to how to begin creating campaigns and producing adverts specifically designed for mobile consumption.

If you have any questions or would like some help with your campaign feel free to get in touch.

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