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Digital marketing exec: Branded apps 'a huge waste of money'

Since the launch of Apple's App Store in 2008, apps have been seen as the golden goose of mobile advertising. However, a recent Deloitte study found that as many as 80% of branded apps struggle to achieve more than 1,000 downloads.

S&P Global Market Intelligence sat down with Robin Bade, U.K. CEO, regional director Europe and global client lead at digital marketing agency Mirum, to make sense of the rapidly changing mobile landscape. Below is an edited transcript of that conversation.

? Declining mobile attention span a major issue for consumer brands

? Board-level strategies increasingly look at chatbots, voice assistants

? Mobile video advertising growth at peak

S&P Global Market Intelligence: Should brands continue to invest in apps when the success rate is so low?

SNL ImageRobin Bade, U.K. CEO and regional director Europe at Mirum
Source: Mirum

Robin Bade: This is a huge waste of money when you consider how often these apps are actually used. I use an application which tracks my mobile phone usage and attention span. I pick up my phone around 200 times each day but my average attention span is about 10 seconds. And, fundamentally, this a big problem for consumer brands. All the big brands such as Nestlé or Unilever have an app of some sort but most apps are still built on the assumption that people spend more than 10 seconds on them. Unless you are a tool or utility that serves a daily purpose, the micromoments spent on our mobile phones is a massive user experience challenge.

Will this drive advertising dollars toward more traditional media such as television?

The mobile phone itself as a medium will become the primary interface. Rather than going back to traditional media, brands are trying to figure out how to service those 10-second micromoments. As a result, they are more heavily invested in alternative areas of the mobile space such as web interfaces or social media platforms such as WeChat and Snapchat.

Outside of the app space, how are brands navigating the explosion in online and mobile video?

Video will be the main way of consuming media, particularly on mobile, but growth is at its peak. This means board-level strategy is actually already making the shift from video to chatbots and voice-based interfaces such as Apple Inc.'s Siri and Amazon's Alexa, which are increasingly taking center stage. With newer interfaces emerging at a rapid pace, companies need to rethink what advertising and marketing will mean in a machine-to-machine world. People haven't figured out how to handle this yet and I think that's an interesting challenge for brands at the moment.

Is it not more effective to advertise on traditional media which are more trusted by consumers, such as television?

That depends on who you are as a brand. If you primarily sell to an online audience, this is not necessarily the case. Unlike their offline counterparts, online brands can move quickly from awareness to consumer purchase and in this instance, I would argue that ad dollars are a lot better spent online.

Then why are online brands such as Airbnb, Uber Technologies Inc. and Facebook Inc. increasingly advertising offline?

There is a good reason for this. Each of them is trying to become an approved mainstream brand. Therefore they need to work in both the online and offline world. Money spent on television, for instance, is likely designed to create more awareness rather than conversion and actual sales. So if you're on television, you're seen as a real brand, from a consumer perspective.

I don't think it has anything to do with sales. Digital brands on television is merely a long-term play to be seen as an approved mainstream brand. Similarly, Amazon's move into physical retail is part of that trend.