WSJ Article on Mobile Ad Tactics Nearly "Content Free"

Far too often in tech journalism and blogging a provocative headline is betrayed by a superficial or "content-free" article. Such is almost the case with a story in the Wall Street Journal that carries a provocative headline Mobile Ads: Here's What Works and What Doesn't.

In a 1,000+ word article with such an intriguing title there's very little light shed on the subject. Here's the substance in the piece: 

  • The article cites the eMarketer 2012 mobile ad forecast ($2.6 billion). Our forecast was $2.3 billion (admittedly now a bit low). The number represents just about 2% of all US ad spending according to the article
  • Mobile ad CPMs average $2.85 (source: Opera/AdMarvel). That's probably high at this point
  • About half of all U.S. mobile ad spending goes toward search ads, more than the roughly 47% of total digital spending going into Web search (source: eMarketer; however the IAB reported that about 48% of all 2011 mobile ad spending was search, nearly identical to PC search ad spending)
  • Local realtor advertising on Zillow is cited as an example of success on mobile devices  
  • Full screen takeovers are used as an example of successful mobile ad units, but not without caveats 
  • Unexpected/in your face ads (ads in unexpected places: i.e., homescreen of Kindle devices) are said to work. However, this is a dubious recommendation 

That's it.

In fact the article doesn't do very much to illuminate (beyond search) what types of ads are truly working on mobile devices. And the big discussion that the piece neglects is ad creative. More than any other variable ad creative is responsible for the success or failure of the campaign.

There's also no discussion about various flavors of ad targeting and local targeting in particular (although that's implied in the Zillow mention). The article also says nothing about the efficacy of deals or offers as a driver of mobile ad response. Consistently deals/coupons/offers are cited by consumers as the category of mobile advertising they're most interested in. 

Finally, mobile loyalty marketing (vs. media/ad buying) and mobile CRM can be extremely effective marketing tools but these too are not mentioned.  

So much for "what works and what doesn't."