What If Mobile Ads Just Don't Work?

More

An investor makes a strong argument that screens are too small and people are too distracted for mobile marketing to ever be effective.

RTR2RL5F-615.jpg

Reuters

There's a common wisdom among start-up watchers like Mary Meeker or the guys at Business Insider that mobile phone advertising is a HUGE OPPORTUNITY. That's because people are spending a lot of time on their phones and very little advertising revenue is being generated during those hours. By the iron laws of the universe, where the people spend time, advertising dollars will follow. 

But there is another possibility, of course. It could be that advertising is simply inimical to the smartphone experience. In a great post at Monday Note, investor Jean-Louis Gassée explores this hypothetical and comes away convinced. The screens are too small and people are too distracted to pay any attention to the ads on their phones. And the seeming virtues of location-based ads don't seem that way to the people who'd be receiving them. Mobile ads just aren't going to work, Gassée concludes:

If the industry hasn't cracked the mobile advertising code after five years of energetic and skillful work it's because there is no code to crack. Together, the small screen, the different attention modes, the growing concerns about privacy create an insurmountable obstacle.

The "$20B Opportunity" is a mirage.

This would be a huge problem for just about every company that depends on Internet advertising. Most of them/us are seeing increased mobile usage, which means less and less of the time people spend with their brands is monetizable at the (already paltry) rates they'd come to expect on the web. Also don't forget that hundreds of millions of people in the developing world primarily access the Internet through their phones. So, it's not impossible that the mobile revolution may actually represent a doomsday for free ad-supported content and services.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer calls Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Saving Central: One High School's Struggle After Resegregation

Meet the students and staff at Tuscaloosa’s all-black Central High School in a short documentary film by Maisie Crow. 


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Where Time Comes From

The clocks that coordinate your cellphone, GPS, and more

Video

Computer Vision Syndrome and You

Save your eyes. Take breaks.

Video

What Happens in 60 Seconds

Quantifying human activity around the world

Writers

Up
Down

More in Technology

Just In