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What makes a mobile display ad effective?

March 31, 2011

Pervez Sikora is cofounder and chief operating officer of 2adpro

By Pervez Sikora

Spending on mobile display advertising nationwide is expected to reach $1.2 billion by 2015, according to ABI Research. This is triple the $313 million that is currently spent.

Such growth is not surprising given the rapid pace of mobile phone penetration nationwide, which is expected to reach 100 percent by 2012. Also, according to Nielsen, smartphone penetration is expected to cross 50 percent by year’s end.

The growth of mobile display advertising in the coming years is set to exceed the growth in established channels for delivery of display advertising such as newspapers, television and the Internet.

Growing numbers of consumers are effective targets for mobile display advertising as the usage of mobile Internet and applications increases.

ComScore reported that in May 2010, 31.9 percent of mobile subscribers used mobile browsers, 30 percent downloaded apps and more than 20 percent accessed social media.

So what makes a mobile display advertisement effective?

Screen real estate
The Mobile Marketing Association has defined and published standards for global ad units to ensure that there is enough flexibility yet consistency for ad development and delivery.

An ad must load quickly and must be sized and positioned for maximum audience attention.

Clearly, attention must be paid to the file weight, size of the ad and the position on the screen.

Creating engagement through content
Mobile display ads are smaller in size and have to operate within the constraints of the display device.

Copy must be limited to that which is absolutely necessary and only words that would spark interest must be used.

The number of visual elements must also be minimized in the ad.

It is better to use special effects for a single image and a limited set of words, rather than multiple images and lots of copy.

There is also a growing trend towards rich media advertising on mobile platforms, which drives engagement to levels far greater than in the online world. The only challenge is the time and effort required in building rich media ads.

Key message must be delivered fast
Whether the purpose of the ad is to enhance the brand or introduce a promotion, the key message must be presented to the user quickly.

Unlike a Web page, there is limited content on a mobile screen and the consumer will probably spend less time on an ad compared to an ad on a traditional Web page. Hence, the ad needs to work more quickly in terms of delivering the main message.

An effective design combined with targeting based on location and demographics can increase the effectiveness of a mobile display ad campaign.

Limited clutter on a mobile screen creates a better chance of your display ad grabbing the attention of the user.

A well-designed ad that loads quickly and delivers the key message in a few seconds will result in better response rates and branding metrics.

Mobile campaigns are already delivering results, and it is no surprise that marketers are beginning to pay serious attention to this medium.

Pervez Sikora is cofounder and chief operating officer of advertising design and production services firm 2adpro, Woodland Hills, CA, and Bangalore, India. Reach him at

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