Many an expert has prophesied the imminent death of the conventional PC for a number of years. They go on to talk about a post-PC era where desktops and laptops are no longer relevant. The fact of the matter is that while conventional computers aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, mobile computing is undeniably on the web.
More and more people are consuming web content on their smartphones, tablets and hybrid convertibles than ever before. And just as the content creators have to be cognizant in this marked shift, so must advertising and marketing professionals. Indeed, the continued meteoric rise of mobile Internet usage is one of the key affiliate marketing trends for this year. Websites need to either offer a mobile-optimized version or feature a responsive design that can adapt to the smaller screens of smartphones and tablets. And they need to be optimized for a touch-based interface.
But what does this mean from the perspective of online business, particularly when it comes to advertising and marketing?
Many mobile apps and games are monetized with in-app advertising. These may take the form of interstitials, as is the case in a game like Words with Friends. After every move, a display or video ad is shown. Most of these are benign, even if they aren’t particularly well-targeted. For instance, I don’t know why I’ve been shown a lot of video ads for birth control pills lately.
Other ads can be interpreted as being misleading if only for the way that they are designed. The “X” or “skip” button can be made incredibly small, such that tapping anywhere but precisely on the button itself registers as tapping on the ad itself, directing the user to the advertiser’s website. Even more maliciously, many mobile apps are designed such that a banner ad is visible during use, oftentimes right next to on-screen buttons that are required for gameplay or use.
As a result, these types of banner ads presumably register a high volume of “accidental” clicks. From the perspective of the publisher, this could result in higher revenues if the ad is displayed on a cost-per-click (CPC) basis. From the perspective of the advertiser, they are only receiving visitors who are frustrated at having their mobile app or game experience interrupted. This is not a positive association, even if the ad is being deployed on a cost-per-action (CPA), cost-per-lead (CPL), or cost-per-sale (CPS) basis.
When screen real estate on the smaller displays of smartphones and tablets is at such a premium, such tactics may be seen as having some level of effectiveness, but they come with a level of questionable ethics. So, what can be done?
Even though mobile app and mobile web usage is definitely on the rise, effective mobile advertising is still in its relative infancy. What this means, from the perspective of the Internet marketer, is that there is still a very large, untapped market that is filled with overwhelming potential. Indeed, when you look at an affiliate network like WOW Trk, mobile optimized offers represent the single largest category of affiliate offers in the network’s inventory. Many advertisers recognize the potential; they just need the right affiliates to promote these offers in the right way to generate high conversion rates and higher revenues for everyone involved.
And just as traditional banner advertising on the desktop-based Internet is slowly giving way to creative forms of native advertising, it is only a matter of time before a similar trend translates to the world of mobile as well. The very nature of advertising online continues to change and the most effective–and ethical–strategies for mobile represent the next frontier.