As more people do things on their phones the mobile advertising industry has started figuring out what works, and it sounds like it "sucks" as much as Steve Jobs thought it would. The Wall Street Journal's Shira Ovide and Greg Bensinger outline the top three tactics that have lead to increased business and they all sound pretty invasive, especially on that teeny-tiny screen. They are as follows: Search ads, ads that disguise themselves as games with interactive and social features, and "takeovers," which as the name suggests means an pop up that takes over the entire screen when you're, say, playing a game. All of those, especially that last one, sound about as in-your-face as you can get on a 4-inch screen.
The difference between desktop and phone usage, as far as advertisers are concerned, is both the screen size and the way we use our pocket computers. Dissenters like Jobs and investor Jean-Louis Gassée have pointed out that not only do our fingers respond differently to the device, but we are more distracted when we use it, making it impossible for ad space. "Together, the small screen, the different attention modes, the growing concerns about privacy create an insurmountable obstacle," said Gassee in a note this summer. But considering the increase in mobile usage rates for everything from socializing to search, Internet companies and advertisers can't resist putting the money-makers on those tiny screens. The result: Big ads. For example, search ads that take up almost half of the screen, as opposed to a tiny, not noticeable fraction up top.
Video pop-ups that interrupt a game of Scrabble or a Pandora listening session, as seen below.
Or, those sneaky secret game ads. McDonalds, for example, ran a mobile campaign that involved a bunch of games, like the one below, which has people do a word scramble.
Facebook has its own strategy, sticking its Sponsored Stories in the mobile news feed, which is a bit less invasive, but still there. And it sounds like those are working for the social network just fine. They generate 13 times more clicks, and 11 times more revenue than desktop ads, recent data found.
The thing is, users never like ads. Even on a big ol' TV screen, we want to DVR through them. When Jobs introduced Apple's iAds, he said it was to keep app-makers from turning off users. As he delicately put it, "What some of them are starting to do is put mobile ads in their apps… and most of this advertising sucks." Advertising isn't going away, but it's still up in the air how much users will tolerate when it's up in their faces.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.