Mobile Ads: You Didn’t Mean To Click On This, Did You?

For a long time, I’ve been hesitant to really test mobile ads. Now, I have every incentive to advertise via mobile. One of my own key audiences, in particular, is more prone to using mobile devices.

If you read online advertising articles, this year is to be the year of mobile ads. But I keep wondering: where exactly is the growth coming from? It’s always been a bit of a mystery for me.

When conceptualizing online ads, I often start with the question of “why does this target audience have a rational reason to click on this ad?” To me, that’s always the key to a good ad. And it doesn’t just have to do with the issue I’m advertising around. I’m curious about why the target audience has a reason to click on this ad given the technology and platform they’re using – and how their response would change given the technology they’ve chosen to use at that moment.

Choice of their platform is very interesting to me, and asking the correct questions about that choice often yields beneficial results. This choice shapes their behavior and, as a result, the message that they should receive. For instance, how does a successful message change from Google Adwords, where people are looking for answers, to Facebook, where people are looking for social connection and social currency?

Most key to the puzzle of mobile ads, in particular, is the behavior and motivation. Is now a good time and place to where they’d be receptive to this message? Perhaps this is why I’m most skeptical about mobile ads. When I think about a mobile user, I think of someone either a) quickly looking up information, or b) is bored out of their freaking mind.

And therein is the obstacle: with online mobile advertising, we are asking the user the following:

“Hello there, old friend on the tiny screen. I would ask that you please leave what you’re doing now for something that has mildly piqued your interest. No, you can’t open up a new window, either. You need to leave what you’re doing. It wasn’t THAT important, was it?”

The ask of leaving the page has a much larger cost for a mobile user, who doesn’t have multiple screens, nor do they have the display screen real estate for another window to exist.

Enter a new study by mobile app marketing platform Trademob, who “found that 22 percent of clicks are accidental, while 18 percent are fraudulent,” resulting in a 40% “oh crap” rate (my term).

Accidental clicks. Yes, the main reason why I click on mobile ads. Tell me more, please:

“Accidental clicks are actually a bigger problem than fraud, but the rate of accidental clicks appears to be falling. Pontiflex ran its own survey with Harris Interactive last year and found that 47 percent of app users said they were more apt to click a mobile ad by mistake than on purpose.”


This is certainly not to scare anyone away from mobile. Instead, it shows what a challenge it is, and how we’ve yet to truly figure this out.

These are the studies that should leave advertisers with several questions to ponder, because those who are closer to figuring this puzzle out will reap the benefits. Here are a few of my own:

  1. How can I create an ad that users are less likely to click on accidentally? For example, where can it be placed on-screen to minimize users who meant to click on a link to another section of the website? How can it be designed so that it’s very obvious to the user that it’s not part of the regular content?
  2. What are the needs of my audience when they’re using mobile devices? How can I cater my message to meet those needs or appeal to someone who has those needs at that moment?
  3. Where can I place ads that fit with my “ask”, or where people are going to be more receptive to that ask? For instance, if I’m placing ads for people to watch a video, where can I place an ad where users are more likely to do that? If I’m running a petition ad, where are people more likely to go through with that ask?

~ by Brad Levinson on September 25, 2012.

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