Agencies Versus The Mobile Banner

The mobile banner came in for another beating yesterday during a panel yesterday at the OMMA Display conference focused on the topic. That’s not so surprising. The question is, what replaces it — and how do you deliver higher quality ads at scale in mobile? (Okay — that’s two questions.) One answer is native advertising -- which, at the basic level, takes the form of ads run in the stream of updates as on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other sites.

That is likely to become a more dominant format as major social platforms like Facebook generate a growing share of their ad sales from mobile devices. But “native” can apply more broadly to placements that resemble the look and feel of surrounding editorial content — what historically would have been referred to as advertorial.



Doug Rozen, chief innovation officer at Meredith Xcelerated Marketing, suggested there is room in mobile for this type of advertising as well in mobile. “The best native is advertorial messages that have the right contextual relevance for where I am as a consumer on a publisher’s page, within an ad unit or a line of content” he said.

Kevin Weatherman, director, global strategic publisher sales at Twitter, playing the role of hard-headed realist, took issue with Rozen’s concept of native in mobile, however. “The hard thing about that is it doesn’t scale,” said Weatherman, who oversees publisher sales for Twitter’s MoPub exchange, which offers mobile inventory outside the microblogging service.

He suggested that sponsored content and rich media ads are too costly and labor-intensive for most advertisers, and that programmatically traded banners generating billions of impressions would continue to account for the bulk of mobile ad dollars as a result.

Deep Focus CEO Ian Schafer, who in a panel straw poll voted in favor of ditching the mobile banner, stressed that the ad format doesn’t perform in mobile “other than getting you to install something by accident.” But he acknowledged there might not be enough premium inventory yet to support the shift to mobile even if ad dollars caught up with rate of consumer transition.

That’s especially true when it comes to video. Chad Gallagher, global director of mobile at AOL and, noted that within AOL’s video ad exchange, mobile video is the only area where demand outstrips supply. And he expects demand to keep growing faster than supply expands.

The definition of “premium” itself was debated throughout the conference, and the mobile panel was no exception. Weatherman suggested mobile has created new types of premium inventory and advertising, including that from game developers like Zynga and Supercell. “Supercell is putting together 90 second videos that they’re also running on ESPN,” he noted.

Gallagher made the case that "programmatic premium" wasn't necessarily and oxymoron, while Kunal Muzumdar, managing director, NY Possible, put things more bluntly: "What I care about is that the stuff my team creates doesn't suck," he said. 

So while banners remain the whipping boy of mobile advertising, it’s likely to persist as it has on the desktop Web unless consensus emerges around a better alternative that doesn't cost the mobile equivalent of a Super Bowl ad in mobile. Until then, get used to those accidental clicks.

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