Critical Reflection: Mobile Advertising

A largely uncertain environment, the mobile continues to near ubiquity. A convergence icon with a plethora of desirable functions, the mobile is perhapsthe advertisers ultimate channel of opportunity (Varnali and Toker 2010). Yet with a number of challenges the industry must adapt as consumers respond, expectations rise and technology innovates.

Historically the lure of a new advertising market was one of the driving factors in the platforms inception and upon initial examination the market reflects the hype it accumulated. A lucrative market worth $3.3bn, attractive growth estimations value future market potential at $20.6bn (Montgomery 2011) accounting for 15% of total digital ad spend (Berg Insight 2010). With growth exceeding social media’s current spend; the desire to enter the market is apparent (Eaton 2010).

Considering the platform’s strengths, expansion is self-explanatory. Enabling businesses to;

 “Establish a pervasive electronic presence alongside their customers anytime, anywhere”  (Varnali and Toker 2010, p.144)

McStay (2010) argues the mobile’s ubiquity is the ultimate draw.

However some academics contend the technological advancements that have facilitated consumer centric contextual targeting constitute the platform’s core strength. On reflection this seems logical, empirical research highlighting consumers increased responsiveness to advertisements of increased individual relevance and location (Internet Advertising Bureau 2009).

It’s unsurprising therefore that recent studies have revealed over 65% of marketers intend to increase their mobile budget (Internet Advertising Bureau 2011), maximizing Western economies significant smart-phone acceptance rate and the technological advancements that proceed. (Aaron 2010; Chang 2011).

Yet despite the advancements and market potential some have argued there has been little materialization of the discussed potential. One of the primary concerns challenging the industry remains the consumer response, existing research and industry support indicating a lackluster reaction to the various advertising formats. (Burke 2008)

Challenging effectiveness Tsang et al. (2004) asserted consumers generally have negative attitudes towards mobile advertising, unless specifically providing consent while Aun (2008 cited McStay 2010) study into SMS advertising similarly discovering the format was one of the more unappreciated.

The recycled nature of advertising content has also, and I believe rightfully so, been brought to the industries attention. Truong and Simmons (2010) advised intrusiveness would become a major issue if marketers kept replicating traditionally pushed Internet advertising formats on mobiles. It’s therefore concerning to discover AdMap’s (2010) assertion that current advertising still mirrors online trends in the type of ads served, search services constituting the majority of spend (Montgomery 2011).

Based on these trends, as advertisers arguably we have been slow to embrace the various formats; mobile web, multimedia etc. Yet these formats build upon research demonstrating the increased acceptance of formats with sophisticated interfaces, content focus and use of creativity to improve the user experience (Internet Advertising Bureau 2009).

Consequently the technology could be identified as a restricting factor, as is often the case (Burke 2008). Arguably though technology is capable of providing the desired experience, Apple’s iAd testament to the current execution possibilities, it’s success or lack off more indicative of the industries nature than platform restrictions.

With untapped technical potential and well-established incentives to develop engaging advertisements of various formats inevitably, confusion sets in. The lack of clarity as to why there has seemingly been a lack of urgency to develop dynamic format proposals perhaps implying the reduced pace experienced is actually part of a wider market state.

I therefore insist the markets embryonic state must be recognized (Bauer et al. 2005), drawing upon Vatanparast and Asil (2007 cited Soroa-Koury and Yang 2010) who poignantly assert mobile advertising as an unprecedented way of marketing communication. As such previous industry critique shouldn’t be disregarded but in fact expected, this critique is simply an example of macro-myopia, as was the case during the Internet’s foundation (Saffo 1995 cited Morgan Stanley 2009)

A condition suffered collectively as a society, macro-myopia is the tendency to over estimate the short-term impact of a technology, and underestimate its long-term implication on the marketplace (Dodge 2007). A consistent pattern in the business, Saffo originally guaranteed the Internet would be no different; it’s initial impact far less than the hype, and it’s long-term implications larger than could possibly be imagined.

I agree with this opine and argue that the market is currently suffering the same macro-myopia or ‘déjà-vu’. As a result, due to the market infancy, certain criticism is to be accepted.

This infancy remains a core underlying issue that has wider implications for previous research. Describing mobile marketing as within the embryonic stage of commercial deployment, Bauer et al. (2005) advise the impossibility of empirically measuring adoption and use acceptance, as most consumers hadn’t yet had the chance to adopt and use as an innovation. This therefore challenges the research I previously mentioned (Tsang et al. 2004; Aun 2008 cited McStay 2010), complimenting studies conducted in light of increased smart phone adaption, consumer format adjustment and reduced importance of barriers such as data costs (Internet Advertising Bureau 2009).

As a result contemporary research has begun to highlight the strength of the format previous research and mycro-myopia may have clouded. Effectiveness studies have indicated significant increases in brand recall, association and sales potential among exposed consumers(Meriasvo et al 2006; Hairong and Stoller 2007 cited Varnali and Toker 2010), while Butcher (2010) even asserts mobile advertising as between four to five times more effective as online.

Putting research into practice, early cross media campaigns featuring brands such as Smirnoff, TimeOut and Disney have highlighted the various new formats being successfully trialed, their incorporation of burgeoning consumer acceptance research indicative of market progression.

One example, the motion picture release of the Golden Compass, featured the use of a new mobile banner format linking users to a micro site where the trailer downloaded for free. As Whiteside (2010, p.1) posits, at a time before the advent of the app this campaign was highly innovative and effective;

“Aided awareness (19.3%), mobile ad awareness (58%), interest in the movie (10%) and intent to watch (4%) all posting impressive increases measured against the control group.”

Perhaps then if these examples are just the initial progression of a fledgling marketplace, the platform warrants continued interest. Of course the various critiques that were identified, and will continue to be cannot always be dismissed but as Whiteside (2010) argues through new metrics, compelling evidence and case studies the platform will continue to evolve with increasing success ‘we can only imagine’.

Whether to expect this sooner rather than later, no one is certain.  So perhaps it’s best to end with David Gillian, head of IPA Digital, who once said

 “2011, while not necessarily being ‘the year’ of mobile, is undoubtedly going to be a fantastically important year’”.

Callum Raines (2011)


Aaron, D.B., 2011. Global smartphone sales rose 72 percent in 2010, Gartner Says. New York, NY:Bloomberg. Available from: [Accessed 22/04/2011].

Admap, 2011. Adstats: Mobile Advertising. London: Admap. Available from: [Accessed 23/04/2011].

Bauer, H.H, Barnes, S.J, Reichardt, T. and Neumann, M.M., 2005. Driving consumer acceptance of mobile marketing: A theoretical framework and empirical study. Journal of Electronic Commerce Research, 6 (3), 181-192. Available from: [Accessed 23/04/2011].

Berg Insight, 2010. Mobile Advertising and Marketing. 4th Edition. Stockholm: Berg Insight. Available from: [Accessed 22/04/2011].

Burke, L., 2008. Mobile Advertising: Which way does the wind blow? Market opportunities and challenges for the mobile operators. Journal of Telecommunications Management, 1 (4), 381-384. Available from: [Accessed 22/04/2011].

Butcher, D., 2010. Mobile ads four-to-five times more effective than online ads: InsightExpress. New York, NY: Mobile Marketer. Available from: [Accessed 23/04/2011].

Chang, V., 2011. Worldwide Smartphone market to grow by nearly 50% in 2011. Cellular News. Available from:[Accessed 22/04/2011].

Dodge, D., 2007. MacroMyopia overestimating the short term and underestimating the long term. Don Dodge – Typepad. Available from: [Accessed 24/04/2011].

Eaton, K., 2010. Online, Mobile Ad Spending Explodes, Threatens Traditional Media? New York, NY: FastCompany. Available from: [Accessed 22/04/2011].

Internet Advertising Bureau, 2009. Mobile and Internet brand advertising effectiveness study with Nationwide. London: Internet Advertising Bureau. Available from: [Accessed 22/04/2011].

Internet Advertising Bureau, 2011. Mobile advertising spend set to increase. London: Internet Advertising Bureau. Available from: [Accessed 22/04/2011].

Mcstay, A., 2010. Digital Advertising. Great Britain: Palgrave Macmillan.

Montgomery, J., 2011. Mobile advertising spend to reach $3.3b in 2011, Growing to $20.6bn in 2015. Los Angeles, CA: Mobile Marketing Watch. Available from: [Accessed 22/04/2011].

Morgan Stanley, 2009. The Mobile Internet Report Key Themes. Morgan Stanley. Available from: [Accessed 22/04/2011].

Soroa-Koury, S. and Yang, K.C.C., 2010. Factors affecting consumers’ responses to mobile advertising from a social norm theoretical perspective. Telematics and Informatics27 (1), 101-113. Available from: [Accessed 22/04/2011].Tsang, M.M, Ho, S.C. and Liang, T.P., 2004. Consumer Attitudes Toward Mobile Advertising: An Empirical Study. International Journal of Electronic Commerce,8 (3), 65-78. Available from: [Accessed 23/04/2011].

Truong, Y. and Simmons, G., 2010. Perceived intrusiveness in digital advertising: strategic marketing implications. Journal of Strategic Marketing, 18 (3), 239-256. Available from: [Accessed 22/04/2011].

Varnali, K. and Toker, A., 2009. Mobile marketing research: The state-of-the-art.International Journal of Information Management, 30 (2), 144-151. Available from: [Accessed 22/04/2011].

Whiteside, S., 2010. Making mobile advertising that works – Findings from the MMA’s Consumer Insight Briefing. London: Warc Exclusive. Available from: [Accessed 23/04/2011].


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