What is SessionM, and how did you and your team get started in this field?
Our company is the first of its kind. We're a mobile loyalty and advertising platform that rewards consumers for completing in-app achievements — like watching three videos or sharing three articles — with points they can redeem in our mobile store for gift cards, contest entries and charitable donations. After completing an achievement, consumers are congratulated by a brand sponsor and offered bonus points if they choose to engage with an ad.
All of this came from the simple idea that, in a world where Millennials change media channels 27 times each hour, we wanted to help mobile publishers and advertisers create moments that stick. And, with ad engagement at over 70 percent, we think we're on the right path.
How should the marketing/advertising industry utilize SessionM to create better end-results for its clients’ content and mobile marketing strategies?
Too many dollars are spent on mobile banner ads that reach the wrong consumer at the wrong time in the wrong environment. If your goal is to deliver immersive brand experiences to consumers, our platform is a much more efficient and cost-effective way to make it happen. We only serve ads to the power users — the most active, engaged consumers who are spending the most time within an app and are more likely to engage and take action with your brand content. With SessionM, you only pay when consumers engage, eliminating all waste from your mobile media spend.
We also help agencies handle the creative execution of our ad formats, which range from leveraging video content the brand may already have to creating customized games and social polls. We’ve seen our campaigns outperform benchmarks across industries and formats.
For example, American Family Insurance recently partnered with us on a campaign using video and games to increase brand awareness and drive quotes from agents. The campaign results included a 73% opt-in engagement rate (compared to a 15% engagement typically seen among rich media campaigns) and a 17% clickthrough rate (CTR) for the click-to-call portion of the campaign — significantly higher than the average CTR seen on mobile banner ads, which tends to be less than 1%.
Is the “traditional” mobile ad model broken? What about these ads aren’t working to engage users?
Banner ads essentially transfer traditional desktop displays onto mobile phones and tablets. This means that the ad units do not necessarily tap into the context or behavior of mobile users. By incorporating reward-based advertising into mobile app and website content, SessionM believes that consumers will be more likely to interact as they’re receiving something they value in return for their time.
Why do users prefer integrated ads that require them to “do something” over “traditional” mobile display-style ads?
With any ad format, consumers are required to “do something.” At the bare minimum, it’s just noticing the ads and perhaps choosing to click through to learn more. However, these types of ads tend to appear over mobile content consumers are trying to view, becoming more of a nuisance than anything else.
By integrating ads to show up at natural breaks in the content instead — such as reaching an in-app or site milestone — you create a moment when a consumer is most likely to engage.
How is the push for branded content and native advertising being driven by mobile technology and experiences?
People are spending a growing amount of time with their phones for both entertainment and utilitarian purposes, so the context around ads is critical. It keeps coming back to the user experience; an ad should enhance it, not disrupt it. SessionM’s platform is based on an HTML5 overlay, so it looks and feels like a native part of the mobile apps and sites. This allows the consumer to engage with our features and the ads we display without ever leaving their favorite mobile content.
What do advertisers hope the end result of all these subtle brand experiences will be? Can something as simple as unlocking a new game level for the user really cultivate brand loyalty over time?
Absolutely, as long as the user feels like they’re getting value from the interaction. Our advertisers’ main goal is typically to create brand experiences that consumers actually want to be part of, a seemingly tough task when we’ve seen reports that 79 percent of consumers ignore all mobile ads they see.
However, with SessionM’s unique immersive ad formats, we’ve seen a lift in brand consideration and recall among those who viewed a mobile ad versus those who have not, as well as engagement rates significantly above the industry averages. We believe this is in large part due to the fact that we deliver ads at moments when a consumer is most likely to engage.
To illustrate this further, app developers have seen a 35 percent increase in retention and a 25 percent lower bounce rate (those users who visit the app only once) after integrating SessionM.
How do you see mobile and interactive advertising evolving in the next three to five years? What trends are you most excited about?
One trend we’re excited about is the interplay between mobile content and social discovery. With millions of apps to choose from, it’s a challenge to stand out. Mobile publishers need new ways to promote their content. At SessionM, we’ve already started to see strong returns from using social to supercharge app discovery. One partner who represents best-in-class practices is The Weather Channel, who works with SessionM to reward users for completing in-app achievements, like checking in to the app via Twitter. We’ve seen that for every SessionM user that checked in to The Weather Channel app, it produced three times as many clicks as the app's page in the Google Play Store.
Deborah Powsner leads marketing for SessionM, an innovative mobile loyalty platform that connects consumers with mobile content and advertising in fun and rewarding new ways.
Deborah joined SessionM from Google, where she was responsible for business marketing and insights for the Google+ team. Earlier, Deborah led research and marketing outreach for Google’s B2B, government and local markets direct sales organization in North America. She also co-led the development and production of the Google e-book “Winning the Zero Moment of Truth,” which introduced the powerful marketing concept known as “ZMOT.” She got her start at the PR and branding agency, Ruder Finn. Deborah graduated Phi Beta Kappa from SUNY Binghamton.