The State of Mobile Ad Design: Q&A with Zumobi's John SanGiovanni

In an ever-changing space like digital media, it's best to go straight to the source to ask pointed questions about emerging trends to consider, brands to watch and best practices to leverage. 

And, when it comes to mobile advertisements, Zumobi co-founder John SanGiovanni is an authority to listen to. His impressive credentials include 13 years of experience as a wireless strategist and mobile user interface designer, as well as past management experience at Microsoft Research, the co-author of a dozen-plus patents in mobile advertising, hardware interfaces and interaction technique and the list goes on.

Website Magazine interviewed SanGiovanni for our September 2013 issue (available the first week of August), but he offered up so much good guidance that we'd be remiss to leave it on the editing floor due to print constraints. So, enjoy this Q&A and be sure to subscribe to Website Magazine (or upgrade) today, so you receive the full article on mobile ad design in our September issue. 

What brands are pushing the envelope in terms of mobile advertising and how?

John SanGiovanni: Not surprisingly, a lot of the innovation in mobile today is coming out of the big brand-builders - experience-focused advertisers like American Express, Chevrolet, Nike, Product Launch campaigns, etc.

What are the top-three trends designers and developers should know about mobile ad design?

SanGiovanni: 1) Branded Content plays really well in mobile - your users are often trapped in a doctor's office or sitting at a bus stop.  These moments represent a great opportunity to engage a user with long-form content.  

2) On that note, rather than using bite-sized content like a 15-second spot, seek out longer-format creator-style videos. If a user is trapped with their phone, they'll often launch a content app like Motor Trend, and might actually be MORE likely to watch a 2-min video than they would on the desktop web.

3) However much time you're investing into a mobile microsite, you should similarly invest Design brilliance into the staging of the units for that campaign.  Far too many campaigns employ a single 320x50 unit which over-saturates the apps into which it is served.

How can in-app advertisements blur the lines between content and advertising and why is this good for brands?

SanGiovanni: Provided that the advertising respects the user and clearly identifies itself as branded content, 'Special Advertising Sections' play very well in mobile. Our recent campaign for Chevrolet experienced a unprecedented 37 percent engagement rate with click through rates of 11.2 percent for the expandable paso doble ad unit. Additionally, in-stream units blended-in to a list view are engaging ways for brands to elevate their message beyond the banner.

Anything else to add about Zumobi or mobile ad design in general?

SanGiovanni: We are incredibly excited about the growth of Native Mobile Advertising as a trend. This has always been the specific style of advertising where Zumobi has focused, having powered the first-ever native mobile ad campaign together with Mountain Dew, which ran inside the Official App for Xbox. Clearly, the day has come for Native Mobile advertising - and top-tier publishers and advertisers are using ZBi as a way to express this new form of advertising into mobile apps in an elegant way.