This is a scene many of us have lived out before. Whether on purpose, or more likely an accidental brush of a finger, you click and an ad begins to load. And load. But wait! First it needs to switch over to a web browser and load some more. At this point, you most likely sigh and close out of the ad to go about your business. As it turns out, you definitely aren’t alone.
A new study from Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business reveals what may seem obvious to many: mobile ads are significantly less effective than traditional online advertising. Participants gave various reasons for preferring online ads to mobile ones, from screen size to convenience. At least 70% answered that they simply didn’t notice ads as they were too busy doing something else on their mobile device.
These findings come as little shock to many, including Sunil Gupta who wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review in March 2013 on this very topic. In his article, he stresses screen size as one of the most important factors in advertising effectiveness. If you can’t read the ad, he argues, you aren’t going to be very influenced by it. He too was concerned by the inconvenience caused by clicking (sometimes accidentally) on mobile ads. In the recent Dartmouth study, 69% of participants said it was a hassle to “return to the original position” after being redirected by an ad.
However, Gupta suggests a solution to this problem: apps instead of mobile ads. Trying to fit traditional banner ads into mobile screens is just not going to be effective. Where advertisers should turn instead, he argues, is to app development. They are more cost-effective and potentially more effective because many consumers see them as less intrusive than traditional advertising. Additionally, users spend significantly more time using apps than web browsers when on mobile devices, so companies’ focusing solely on banners ads just doesn’t make sense.
Gupta is quick to suggest that just creating more apps is not enough. Already there is a huge market for apps, and smartphone users typically only download around 40, and of those only regularly use 15. In solution, Gupta offers five strategies for success to help companies looking to get into app-based advertising: offering convenience, unique value, social value, incentives, and entertainment.
While none of the findings of this study are shocking, they do offer an interesting insight into mobile consumers’ experience. There are some issues than can potentially be fixed by advances in technology, like slow loading times and internet access issues. However, the onus is primarily on advertisers to innovate and reach out to consumers.