Why No One Likes Mobile Ads and How Companies Hope to Change That

No one really knows if ads on smartphones work.


Internet companies are having difficulty making money on mobile ads.

Mobile computing is the fastest-spreading consumer technology in history, but the real change for the technology business is only just beginning.

Where consumer attention goes, ad euros are supposed to follow. That hasn’t quite happened on mobile devices.

Belgian. adults now spend about 82 minutes a day on average using mobile devices for activities other than calls. Yet only about 2 percent of all advertising euros is being spent on mobile websites or inside mobile apps, according to estimates from IAB.

The problem, advertisers say, is that technologies for tracking users and measuring the impact of ads haven’t kept up with the fast switch by consumers to smartphones and tablets, leaving marketers unsure if the ads are working and unwilling to commit large budgets.

One result is that advertisers are paying much less for mobile ads. The average cost an advertiser pays to show an ad to a thousand people on a desktop computer much higher than on mobile devices. Analysis show that average revenue from each ad click dipped 6 percent in 2012. A drop attributed partly to users shifting to mobile devices?

The most significant issue for ad buyers is that they don’t know if the ads are working, like they do on desktop computers. The Interactive Advertising Bureau, admitted as much in a 2011 report. It said “all media depend critically upon reliable metrics for audience reach,” adding that mobile ads were “challenged by serious methodological and technological limitations.”

What works on conventional computers doesn’t on mobile devices, and in many cases replacements have not yet been developed. The standard method of tagging, tracking, and targeting online ads is the cookie, a small text file that websites store on a given computer’s Web browser that identifies it. But cookies don’t work as reliably or powerfully on the Web browsers of mobile devices, and there’s no such thing as a cookie inside a mobile app, where much of people’s time is spent and advertisers would like to follow.

Another particularly vexing problem for advertisers is the way consumers frequently switch back and forth between their mobile devices and a PC when performing a task. For example, a person may see and click on a mobile ad, but actually purchase the product on their PC. That means advertisers can’t tell if their ad worked.

The ability to measure behavior on mobile is very challenged, It’s very difficult to connect the mobile impression to an action or sale.

Disagreements over how to advance tracking technologies haven’t helped. Last year, Apple blocked advertisers from tracking iPhones and iPads using the unique ID of each device, preferring to develop its own solution. There’s also the chance of regulation: cautioning mobile advertisers over privacy issues, like tracking their location, and recommended making it easier for people to block ads. Something IAB and Agoria have to look in to it.

Technology companies are now rushing to fill the infrastructure gap that’s preventing mobile ads from becoming truly valuable. Google has filed patents on ideas for how to link mobile ad campaigns to data about people’s real-world purchases, and one alumnus of Google’s ad business recently raised $6.5 million in funding for her company, Drawbridge, whose technology allows marketers to follow consumers from one device to another.

Once the technology gaps close, mobile advertising will probably eclipse desktop advertising, as has already happened in some countries, like Japan, where Internet-capable mobile phones have been in use longest. When properly done, mobile advertising has every chance of matching or being more valuable than that in a desktop browser.






Yves Kallaert

Business Develompent Manager

Yves is a Mobile Strategist, with over 10 years of experience in mobile innovation and strategy. As co-founder of the Belgian Mobile Monday community, Community gatekeeper Mobile at IAB Belgium and Member of STIMA Digital Marketing Expert Group, he organizes and co-organizes mobile events in Belgium. Yves is keynote speaker, organizes workshops and lunch-and-learn events on mobile and mobile 2.0. His healthy passion for people, Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, quantum physics and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy make him an unorthodox out-of-the-box thinker. He helps brands, agencies and media agencies in Belgium understand how to leverage Mobile and how to properly deploy mobile business capabilities across their organizations, while focusing on user-relevance and user-experience. Enthusiast networker an avid user of social media. When he isn't working, networking, hanging out with his kids or visiting a Sci-Fi convention, you can probably find him horseback riding in some remote desert or scuba diving in the red sea . Specialties: mobile strategy, marketing strategy, communications strategy, mobile applications, developer marketing, app marketing, new business development, brand development, value engineering, business strategy, event planning, strategic advisor, mobile 2.0, networker, blogger.

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