Why Mobile Advertising Is A Pain

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Mobile advertising is really just a pain in the you-know-where for marketers sometimes.

You’d think mobile advertising should be a marketer’s dream come true. You get the ability to connect with people effectively, in real time, wherever they happen to be.

The typical mobile user checks his phone 150 times a day and the average SMS is read within 4 minutes.

The power and capability of mobile devices is continuing to increase, and the HTML rendering on smartphones now exceeds some of the most popular desktop and web-based solutions.

But somehow, mobile marketing is more of a nightmare.

Why? Well, here are a handful of the problems with mobile advertising:

1.  Different impressions

Mobile and desktop impressions are not created equal at all.

Advertising on a desktop browser is relatively standardized. You can assume the user has a full range of actions available at a given time – to see your ad, to click, to buy, etc.

But on a mobile device, nothing is standard.

There are multiple form factors, so you have to design and test for all of them, and you still won’t be 100% your ad will look good on all devices.

Then there are lots of accidental taps which you’ll be charged for, because the advertising network will place the ad in places that are most likely to be tapped – even if the user had no interest in the ad.

And then the next problem comes after people click through on your mobile ad. Most marketers have great websites… that are not optimized for mobile.

Think confusing landing pages, abrupt App Store launches without context, and all sorts of other usability problems.

2. No behavioral targeting

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Advertisers can target potential customers from the desktop environment, based on profiles developed using cookies.

The more sites customers visit, the more cookies they collect and the easier it is for advertisers to draw a sketch of what kind of customer you are.

But thanks to Apple’s decision to not allow third-party cookies in the iPhone, most iOS users can’t be tracked this way, and Google’s Android platform was modeled after iOS.

Some advertisers are starting to figure out how to deploy third-party cookies via Android, but basically, cookie tracking on Android is still far from being reliable.

3. No rich media ads

On desktops, it’s safe to assume most people will have a steady, reasonably fast Internet connection.

But on a mobile device, you could be using anything from your home Wi-Fi, to LTE to 3G… and 70% of tablets are not connected to a cellular data plan, which means that if brought out of people’s homes, they’re likely to be completely offline.

Plus connections will vary in quality.

For advertisers, that means they can pretty much kiss the idea of deploying rich media ads on mobile goodbye.

Besides, most mobile devices don’t support Adobe Flash, not even on Android, and in general, smaller screens are a real challenge for rich media ads.

4. Apps

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Apps are what makes a major difference between mobile computing and traditional desktops.

Consumers started spending more and more time on mobile apps in mid-2011, which is just another challenge for advertisers.

There is the new concept of app-vertising (placing ads on apps), but it’s really too new to be useful just yet.

And meanwhile, the web-based model of advertising is going out the window. It’s believed that by 2015, 40% of searches will be done via apps.

5. Few “Live” Readers

Readers don’t access their content the same way on desktop and mobile devices.

Many have the habit of downloading their magazine or newspaper, then reading it later when there’s no Wi-Fi connection (like while commuting to work on the train or bus).

This again makes rich media ads even less of an option, since they slow overall download speed and can’t be updated on the fly.

But it also means that ads for mobile devices will be more like print than digital ads.

For example if you preload an edition of today’s Wall Street Journal, you can’t click on the ad to get more information.

But this means marketers who were trying to add social media engagement to their ads have to take a step back to more traditional ad types.

But despite these challenges, it’s safe to say that we can’t escape from mobile advertising. The prediction for mobile ad spending is that it will soon see rapid growth.

That means it’s time to get ready.

If you’re going to make mobile part of your marketing strategy, you need to have a plan. Understand your customers, both current and future, and figure out if mobile advertising is the best idea for you.

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