Why Your Mobile Ads Aren’t Effective

You’ve tapped on a link in your social media feed to read an article your friend shared. It was the headline that caught your attention and your mind was intent on learning more. But as the page loads the first couple blocks of text on your Nexus 6P’s screen, you’re hit with a full-screen takeover ad to “buy, buy, buy” a new video game.

This is one of the reasons why consumers are enabling ad blockers on mobile. In fact, the use of ad blockers has risen by 90 percent over the last year, according to PageFair. That puts total adoption at around 420 million users and rising.

The mind likes completion. In the example above, the ad prevented the user from completing their task: reading the news. While some users may take the bait and click on the ad, more than 98 percent likely would not because of their desire to close the loop.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve used full-screen interstitials before. I do believe there is a difference in using them when a consumer or reader is already engaged on your website and not on their initial visit. Regardless, interstitials aren’t the most effective ads despite the fact that they are guaranteed to be seen.

There’s also the hard-to-measure: how many of the users who were hit with the full-screen ad got so annoyed they never returned? My assumption is the number is extremely low, but low doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Considering every user has revenue potential, you have to weigh the value of the interstitial against these risks.

The 300×250 and 320×50 are the two other industry standard banner ad sizes — SmartBrief did a nice overview on mobile ad units recently. These are persistent along the bottom of screens and scattered throughout content. The impact of these units is more brand awareness than anything else. Not many people actually see a banner ad, click on it and take the action the marketer had been hoping for. We’ve almost become numb to them, our eyes skipping right over. 

There are exceptions, of course. The primary two are moments and relevancy.

What sets Facebook, Google and Twitter apart, making them effective for marketers, is the way ads are integrated within their user experiences (natively) and the level of targeting — I’m not seeing an ad just to see an ad (e.g. television), I’m seeing it because it pertains to me.

This blog post from Kiip had some really good facts, including how only 2.8 percent of users thought ads in apps and mobile web were relevant to them. Yet when the ad correlates to the on-screen content, more than 28 percent claimed relevancy and had a higher propensity to take action. There’s also a lift from associating your ad with a specific brand.

For example, Winery Passport began partnering with Wino Shirt Club earlier this month. After every stamp, a user will see the partnering sponsor logo of this brand. Winery Passport has an audience of passionate consumers interested in wine tasting experiences. Wino Shirt Club is a membership-based program that sells t-shirts from wineries across the globe. The brands are relevant to one another, which means Winery Passport users are more likely to subscribe to Wino Shirt Club than had they marketed their brand on another app or channel.

For marketers, making sure you don’t put an ad somewhere just because you have money to spend is extremely important. We live in a day and age where data is easily at our fingertips. We can create and export audiences that look exactly like the ones converting within our channels, and then use our existing audience data to get them to convert again and again.

But serving the ad to this audience is only one dimension. The other is when you do it — the moment. Google has been focused in 2016 on micro-moment-based advertising solutions. It’s also what’s made Kiip successful, delivering a relevant ad at a moment the user is most likely to take an action. Figuring out when to serve your message is just as important as the message you are serving.

Think about the ads you see on Facebook or Twitter. These ads are tucked natively in your feed, seamlessly integrated within the experience. Let’s say I’m sitting at Penn Station waiting for my train, scrolling through my news feed and see an ad from Dunkin’ Donuts for $1 off an iced coffee for my commute home. I’m more likely to take action on that ad (because it was shown to me at a time when I’m likely to get a coffee) than if I saw an ad for Casper, telling me to buy a mattress, if I hadn’t given off any signals that I was looking for a mattress, of course — which I’m not.

Uncovering what you need to do to make your mobile ads more effective can’t be covered in an 850-word blog post. It takes time; it takes a strategic knowledge of what’s possible. The good thing is, by focusing on the moment your ad is delivered and the relevancy of it for your intended audience, you’ll be a more effective mobile marketer than most.

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