Olly Worley, Senior Digital Executive at Ebiquity, gives his prescription for more impactful and more useful mobile advertising – the kind of commercial content that won’t get blocked by consumers.

In-app and mobile web ads that pop up can be irritating, irrelevant, or slow to render – and frequently all three. What’s more, attempting to close an ad often leads, accidentally, to clicking on it and getting taken out of a chosen app to another, unasked-for location. Frustration with mobile ads is pretty much universal, and this was the focus of a recent conference hosted by Mullen Lowe titled ‘Making Mobile Ads Better.’

What doesn’t work and why?

There are undeniable problems and difficulties with mobile advertising. One challenge is that too much is expected of the format, even though it hasn’t had the time to develop as – say – standard digital display has. While expectations may be high with display, replicating formats and scale across mobile is, at best, much more testing and, at worst, not currently possible. In addition, programmatic technology makes mobile more complicated from a relevance and creative standpoint.

There’s also a mismatch between mobile budgets and the traffic that websites receive. Media owners report many clients spend 20–30 percent of digital budgets on mobile, while up to 70 percent of site traffic comes from mobile devices. Most mobile spend is focused on building high impact creative, though less time and attention is paid to the banners designed to attract users in the first place. Many feel traditional display formats have a limited future on mobile because small screens don’t lend themselves to ads being crammed into reduced screen size.

What works better?                                                     

While some delegates preferred big, rich media ads that are visually engaging, others considered the implications of such data heavy formats and advocated for returning to simplicity. It’s not fair, they argued, to impose this on consumers whose data allowances are often tight.

Many advertisers prefer video ads on mobile, although there currently isn’t overwhelming support for this preference. The challenge for advertisers is to have video optimized for mobile. Standard, 30-second, pre-roll formats are not as effective on mobile where attention spans are shorter, typically at 8–10 seconds.

“There’s a mismatch between mobile budgets and the traffic that websites receive”. 


Mobile is undoubtedly an increasingly important part of the path to purchase, and very often the first touchpoint. Advertisers must consider the complete customer journey, making it as frictionless as possible to maximize opportunities for conversion. High performing ads aren’t effective if the end site isn’t optimized for mobile purchase. Worse yet, if a user has to switch device to complete a purchase, momentum is lost.

Mobile is such a personal format that advertisers and agencies should look to new ways to reach consumers. These include helping consumers to solve problems – think free texts when credit expires, sponsored by advertisers – and catching users at critical, in-app moments. A fitness app delivering smoothie ads when a user has just finished a workout is a powerful example of relevance in action.

Although mobile has recognized challenges in scalability, creative duration, and format, there is a growing consensus that innovation is the future of mobile. Smartphones and tablets are such an integral part of consumer lives, the channel offers untapped opportunities.

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