Is Mobile the Answer to: 'Half of Online Ads Are Never Seen'?

By now you've no doubt read about the comScore data that showed (or argued) just over half (54%) of PC display ads are never seen by users. The finding turns the old Wanamaker "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted . . ." quote on its head: digital advertising is just as "wasteful" (if not more) than traditional advertising.

Last year, using the same "viewability" methodology, comScore reported that "31% of ads were not in-view, meaning they never had an opportunity to be seen." So the problem is apparently getting worse.

The IAB said that display ads (not counting video) in 2012 represented 21% of the $36.6 billion in US online ad spending. They contributed $7.6 billion at least to the overall pie. If half of that is wasted because ads cannot be seen or are never served it means $3.3 billion is being flushed down the digital toilet, so to speak.

Comparing the impact of PC vs. mobile display advertising across key brand metrics

Source: Dynamic Logic

Enter mobile advertising. I've argued multiple times in the past that mobile is a superior "branding" medium to online for various reasons, not the least of which is improved performance metrics over PC-based digital ads (see graphic above). The chief problem is that most of mobile display features weak ad creative, compromising the potential efficacy of the ads.

To counter this the IAB is releasing a mobile creative "manifesto" of sorts that hopes to instruct brands and agencies about the importance and hallmarks of effective mobile ad creative: A Mobile Manifesto: Creative Leaders on the Art of Successful Mobile Brand Messaging. It features hypothetical examples of best and worst practices.

Here are the broad strokes of the report's recommendations:

  • Clear and persistent branding is important for building brand awareness
  • Short, focused messaging plays well in mobile‚Äôs small format
  • A striking color palette can drive ad recall, but legibility is paramount
  • Consumers respond to mobile ads that give them something back

Many of these recommendations are merely "common sense." However even now many mobile display ad campaigns are perfunctory at best with converted or automated ad creative from PC campaigns. Thus marketers and brands are missing out on the true potential of mobile advertising by not making a "sincere" effort to maximize the value of mobile campaigns.