I’ve posted about mobile advertising a few times recently already:
And now Oliver has posted a discussion between him and Omar that I want to comment on. First of all, the setup with mobile ad delivery is often positioned as something completely different between the online and mobile worlds. That just isn’t so. Sure, the method of insertion typically used online isn’t going to work for most current mobile browsers, but the overall environment problems often cited actually exist in both places. People say that on a mobile the user is paying for the bandwidth. People say that advertising reduces the usable screen realestate for a mobile application. The advertising itself consumes bandwidth, causing the user to load more screens or wait for longer for a single page.
All of those things are problems online as well. We still pay to get online, it’s just a flat fee for a very fat pipe. Advertising reduces the effective screen realestate for the desktop browser, you just normally have much more realestate to start with. And online advertising also consumes bandwidth, it’s just percentage-wise a much smaller impact. People say that they should have to see advertising cause they pay for the data transfer.
But you pay for cable TV and there are commercials in most of those channels, and you pay your ISP and there are advertisements on the web pages you surf. Sure, you don’t pay per minute watched or pay per KB downloaded normally. But I’m on a flat fee data service with my cell phone, so I don’t pay per KB either. Not true for the majority I admit, not yet at least. But I don’t see any reason for the overall environment not to evolve in that direction. No matter how hard the carriers try to stop it, that’s the way mediums evolve. They evolve to the transport being a comoditized service with the content supported by subscription on the high and and advertising on the mass end.
So the real difference comes down to degrees. Trying to jam traditional advertising into the mobile environment seems cumbersome and intrusive because of how much bandwidth it takes, how much screen realestate it takes, and how little information it pulls about targeting those ads. If it consumed less bandwidth, less screen, and delivered more relevant information into more valuable content I don’t think it would be as much of an issue.
And those tunables can be combined in a few different ways to make the environment more appealing. Drive the value of the content through the roof and it probably won’t matter if your ads are intrusive, if people get enough value out of the service they’ll keep coming back. If you’re delivering something of relatively low value structure your advertising program so that those links are as targeted as possible, they might even become indistinguishable from the rest of your app. Is that advertising? Or an affiliate program?
As I’ve mentioned before in relation to video advertising on mobiles, I don’t think that shoveling the traditional ad delivery system into the new medium is going to be a win. But I do think that the overall dynamics are as much going to apply in this medium as they do in others. The key is finding out how to take advantage of the unique benefits of the mobile as advertising platform (and all the information I’ve seen so far indicates that “advertising platform” is going to be a bad term for it because it’s going to need to be ultra-personal and much more of a conversation) and take advantage of that. But is advertising supported content on mobiles a natural and correct evolution on the whole? In my opinion, yes. It just might have to look significantly different enough from online advertising that we’ll have to stretch our definitions after the fact in order to include it.