Christa Avampato

Imagine you're at a restaurant enjoying a meal with your friend and a vampire pulls up a chair without an invitation, interrupts your conversation and starts to hammer his own agenda at you. Maybe intriguing, certainly bold and probably annoying, right?

That's the customer experience when a brand serves up an unwanted mobile ad. (In a recent Millward Brown research study on mobile advertising customers actually used the word “vampire” to describe brands that serve up unwanted ads on their mobile devices.) The brand’s message, no matter what it is, annoys the customer. Customers have actually articulated that a brand that behaves this way wastes their time and energy. As a result, they have an unfavorable image of the brand.

Just like rules in social etiquette, there are rules for mobile advertising. We had Emily Post to lead us through social etiquette lessons. Millward Brown is our Emily Post of mobile advertising and has a lot to teach us.

The three rules of mobile advertising

In their organized, data-driven and articulate presentation “The Rules of Engagement: How to Drive Mobile Brand Loyalty,” the team laid out three basic rules for all brands when it comes to mobiles advertising:

1.) Put people first
2.) Be respectful
3.) Be helpful

Sounds like what we learn in kindergarten, right? It is. You know all these lessons. You (hopefully) utilize them every day at home, in the office and in the community. So why do brands think that mobile advertising is any different? It’s not.

The bad behavior of brands in the mobile advertising game has caused a mere 11 percent of consumers to view mobile ads favorably. The only form of advertising we like less than mobile ads is telemarketing. Given our intense dislike of telemarketing that's really saying something! If brands don’t fix this we’ll have a “Do not deliver a pop-up ad list” the same way we have a "Do not call list."

The value equation

I hear a lot of agencies talk about consumer value. I don't hear a lot of agencies actually give us an elegant, thoughtful equation for it. The team of Millward Brown does just that:

Time x useful + engaging = value

Value is the currency that generates emotional equity and loyalty of consumers. Time and useful work together. Consumers take this equation and ask themselves the following questions to arrive at a value:

1.) Is it worth the time invested?
2.) Is it useful for me or my family?
3.) Is it engaging, easy to use, and/or entertaining?

The human element

People using mobile devices are just that–people. These devices are personal because they connect us to people and things that we care about. That personal connection to devices needs to be respected and honored by all advertisers. In advertising, we’re looking for reciprocity. An ad educates, entertains and is helpful; we take up its call to action. It’s an exchange and it needs to be equitable.

Consumers like choice and that applies to mobile advertising as much as it applies to products and services. They want to choose which ads to watch, the timing and whether or not to engage. Give the people what they want; in the world of advertising, the customer is always right.

This article is part of Allvoices’ series on ad:tech, the largest, longest-running digital marketing and technology event. Check out for more of Allvoices’ ad:tech coverage. This series is supported by ad:tech.