Can Location Save Mobile Advertising?

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Yesterday on Marketing Land I wrote about a new mobile ad blocking report that contends there are now roughly 419 million people blocking ads on mobile devices around the globe. That’s up from about 200 million a year ago.

The highest concentration of ad blocking users is reportedly in Asia, while it is less common in North America and Europe. The most popular way now to block ads on smartphones is through the use of an ad-blocking browser.

In developing countries people are blocking ads to save on mobile data costs. In developed countries ad blocking is more about frustration with the ad experience. There are many surveys documenting this. The most recent I ran across is from SessionM (n=6,000 mobile users).

Responding to the question, “When are you okay with seeing ads on your smartphone?,” respondents said (emphasis added):

  • I’m okay with seeing ads on my smartphone at any time — 5.2%
  • When I’m in a free app — 32.1%
  • When the advertised product is relevant to me — 17.4%
  • When the ad is from a company I like/trust — 12.2%
  • Other — 7.4 percent
  • I’m never okay with seeing ads on my smartphone — 40.2%

A meaningful percentage in the survey (32%) recognized the “ads for content” trade-off. However a larger number (40%) never want to see mobile ads. And 30% provided a conditional response: when ads are relevant or I like the company. (Users were permitted to select more than one answer.)

From my anecdotal observation, retargeting is the most common way that mobile ads are “personalized” or made relevant. Yet retargeting can be relentless and irrelevant if a purchase has already been made (e.g., hotel reservation). Sometimes the ads I receive are locally targeted as well.

Location is probably the most important feature of the mobile user experience and it’s much less widely utilized than it should be. Location can identify appropriate and potentially receptive audiences as well as provide contextual and other forms of real-time relevance to users. Location targeting and analytics are probably the most important tools for mobile marketers and should be more fully exploited (but not in a creepy way).

Brands, agency executives and various “industry leaders” have issued “mea culpas” recently about the mobile ad experience. Most now say they “get it” and want to find better ways to engage smartphone users. Like climate change, it’s a problem people recognize intellectually but it’s far from clear they can do much about it in actuality.

Here’s what I think needs to happen fairly quickly at the highest level:

  • End slow-loading ads and intrusive formats (e.g., pop-ups, takeovers)
  • Focus on and dramatically improve mobile ad creative (beyond video)
  • Take a sincere user-centric approach to ad creative and functionality

Beyond these general statements, marketers should take better advantage of location (and all its myriad uses) for relevance and personalization. While no single change will address the root causes of ad blocking, the ad experience can be made much better and location is one of the keys to that equation.

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2 Responses to “Can Location Save Mobile Advertising?”

  1. Localytics pushes Places notifications as key to personalization, mobile engagement | The Blog Box says at

    […] “nice to have” capabilities. They’re must have tools that, if Orfanos is right, could help save mobile marketing from its current engagement […]

  2. Localytics pushes Places notifications as key to personalization, mobile engagement | Bloggers Making Money says at

    […] “nice to have” capabilities. They’re must have tools that, if Orfanos is right, could help save mobile marketing from its current engagement […]

  3. Larissa says at

    You can’t win by forcing ads onto visitors. Especially since any frustration or problem that a visitor deals with on desktop seems to be magnified in the mobile experience, accompanied by an exponential reduction of their patience levels! I think that the instrusive formats and slow loading ads are the worst offenders and agree that it’s time to focus on improving mobile ad creative (and treating it as *different*, not just an extension of desktop). AdBlocker will be way less of a problem if we focus on delivering relevant, non instrusive ads that could actually be useful.

  4. Greg Sterling says at

    I remain skeptical about the industry’s ability, as a whole, to adapt and create better ad experiences.

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