What’s Wrong With Mobile Advertising?

What’s wrong with mobile advertising and the technology providers who make it possible? Everything and nothing it turns out– the way industries that are undergoing big shifts always appear to the uninitiated.

We were at OnMobile 2013 recently, and a panel of “upstarts” from the mobile advertising community spoke about some of the “ridiculous” metrics they have to deal with from the advertising industry. For example, the entire notion of targeting presupposes that a consumer is a target, which is a pretty demeaning name for the person who ultimately pays the bills. Let’s face it, all advertising is a distraction, and most consumers will pay (for a DVR, for a premium version of an app) to avoid the distractions of advertising.

That’s why it is incumbent for a publisher, even if he is selling programmatically, to be the judge of what ads appear on his site. He is the sole judge of whether a given ad is contextually relevant to his audience before that audience sees it.

The next two ridiculous metrics for mobile are reach and frequency.  Reach is irrelevant online, and especially in mobile, where just reaching someone will not convince them to buy a product; rather, it may just annoy her and be thought of as spam. As far as frequency is concerned, that’s even worse. If you ask a girl out twenty times and she says “no,” what makes you think that on the 21st ask she will say “yes”?

And the final ridiculous metric is click-through rates. What’s really important is whether the person buys the product eventually, not whether they did or did not click on an ad. Especially on a mobile device, where either bandwidth or data allotment might be scarce, there are many more mundane reasons not to click on an ad.

The top mobile advertising leaders realize that the best advertising hits users at precisely the right moments, and the future of mobile marketing lies in owning those moments, as Twitter does, or Instagram. It’s all about timeliness and being there when the consumer is paying attention. Because of this, mobile ads can’t be about one-way yelling; rather, reciprocity is the key. You have to add value to those moments, not distract from them.

We can take all these factors into account, but we’re guessing that what’s most wrong with  mobile advertising right now is the inability of marketers to consider it part of the overall ad budget rather than as a separate item, and delegate more of advertising spend to it. We predict that’s going to happen next year.