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Q&A with Sol Masch, Director of Mobile Sales & Strategy, Time Inc. on Mobile Ad Innovation

February 6, 2014 | By Michelle Manafy, Editorial Director – DCN @michellemanafy

This Q&A is part of OPA’s “Three on Three” series where we ask three industry executives the same three questions on a topic to uncover actionable insights… If you want to learn more, keep an eye out on our site for more interviews. Today’s Three on Three is with Sol Masch, Director of Mobile Sales & Strategy, Time Inc.

Solmon Masch HeadshotQ: In mobile advertising, what is the most important thing to consider?

A: The place to begin is always around the KPIs and defining those so we can figure out how to make a campaign a success. On mobile, most clients want engagement. The question is, what does engagement mean? Then you can define the right message, the right user and appropriate data targeting. Often, engagement is defined as getting a user to interact. Then you have to create rich messaging that drives interaction. But the message can also be delivered in the form of content that will prompt interaction. We are definitely getting more requests for native and we’re looking at how it lives on the mobile screen and how it will engage readers.

One of the big differentiating factors for mobile versus desktop or other platforms, is the idea of time spent. This is a big misnomer as a KPI on mobile. Agencies often want to drive campaigns based upon how much time people are spending interacting. We don’t find that time spent is the best KPI. If you can engage a user in five seconds—if they go through the entire experience and you get them to want to share the content—you have engaged them, in a matter of seconds.

We see that it is important to be more sensitive to the issue of time on mobile. Often we see that people use mobile during “found time,” which is a couple of minutes on the bus or waiting for an appointment. Mobile demands quick hits that are just as powerful as longer times spent on other devices. The trick is in designing those experiences that last less than a minute, or even just a few seconds, to deliver impact and engagement.

Q: Describe one of your recent or upcoming mobile campaigns that you think is particularly innovative and why it worked.

A: We recently did a campaign with Infiniti promoting the Q50 vehicle. What’s interesting about the Q50 is its intuitive features: You step into the car and it knows all of the personalized features you like such as seat and mirror position.

Given how personalized the Q50 experience is, we wanted to create a similar ad experience that knew the user and that was intuitive about them as well. With our database targeting we are able to identify our print readers through our partnership with Apple and on Facebook and Twitter, et cetera. We developed an experience that gave users not only content from their favorite brands but also content tailored to their specific taste. So if we identified a mobile user as a Time reader who likes technology, the ad unit would contain a bunch of tech articles. A business enthusiast would get business news articles. We tailored this experience so that it leveraged the right brand with the right reader, but also the exact right content.

This campaign was extremely successful. By delivering the right content through the ad experience, we saw engagement levels lifted three to five times.

QWhat is working in mobile advertising, and what do we need more of, in order to drive success?

A: I think that mobile is getting a lot less clunky and more sophisticated, which is a good thing for users and the industry. A few years ago, there was marketer resistance around investing in mobile because experiences on the desktop, with flash and sexy animations, couldn’t be replicated on mobile. Now we are seeing beautiful, rich experiences on mobile that have excited a lot of marketers. These improvements have fueled their interest in investing in mobile and is making it a larger part of their multimedia platform spend.

However, we still need less fragmentation and more simplicity. Mobile is still a challenging landscape to navigate. With different devices and different operating systems, mobile is a much more complex environment to run a rich media experience in and to format them to work properly. All that device and screen variation is holding us back.

Devices and operating systems will keep on coming and we need to simplify it for the marketing and advertising community. We have made progress over the past year. I’ve seen a lot more publishers and agencies adopting IAB Rising Star units, which has been a big help for the mobile advertising industry. The more we can establish standards, the more it will help everyone. Within the structure of standards, we will be able to innovate even more.

Sol Masch, Director of Corporate Mobile Sales & Strategy for Time Inc., is responsible for mobile ad monetization across Time Inc.’s network of 32 million monthly mobile users – including brands such as People, Entertainment Weekly, InStyle, TIME, Sports Illustrated, Real Simple, Health, Travel & Leisure and Food & Wine. Prior to joining Time Inc., Masch served as the Mobile Advertising Director for Viacom Media Networks. In this role, he built Viacom’s mobile business from $0 into a multimillion dollar business. Previously, Masch was co-owner of Not13, a full service mobile marketing agency and content provider dedicated to providing interactive campaigns and services on mobile devices for Elektra Records and Fuse TV.

Note: This Q&A is part of OPA’s “Three on Three” series where we ask three industry executives the same three questions on a topic to uncover actionable insights.

Also in this series:

Q&A with Brian Colbert, Chief Revenue Officer, About.com on Mobile Advertising Innovation

Q&A with Joe D. Weir, VP of Digital, A.H. Belo on Mobile Advertising Innovation

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