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Industry Participants Question Yahoo's Image-Rich Native Ads for Mobile

  |  May 15, 2014   |  Comments

The new ads include better graphics and photos to help brands tell their stories on mobile devices, Yahoo says.

Yahoo is rolling out new image-rich, mobile-first native ads designed to be seamlessly integrated with content. Some industry participants are dubious of the move.

The new ads are available through Yahoo Gemini, a marketplace for mobile search and native advertising that launched in February. They will feature larger, richer graphics and photos for brand storytelling, Yahoo says in a blog post.

"While clearly marked as sponsored, the ads will look and act just like the content around them, and will appear within users' personalized content streams, article pages, and image galleries across Yahoo mobile and desktop products," writes Ned Brody, head of Americas at Yahoo. "When people tap on the ads, they can visit the brand's site directly or view a full-screen visual for even greater interactivity and impact."

According to Yahoo, advertisers like Netflix are using these new ad formats, which can deliver deep user engagement and drive improved recall, intent, and favorability for advertisers.

But not everyone is so optimistic. "It's really fascinating because [Yahoo] made that big hoopla about swearing off banner ads and got people excited, including yours truly," says Brian Wong, chief executive (CEO) of mobile advertising network Kiip. "The problem with Monday's announcement is that it's incredibly underwhelming and is the exact same native offering that many, many companies have already incorporated into what they're doing for advertising and the description in the blog post - bigger, image-ready, richer, interactiver - is the same thing rehashed."

He notes Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has made a push to focus on daily habits, but says Yahoo's advertising products are still focused on increasing ad-related metrics, which remains tied to older thinking.

"If the content is user-first, then the advertising should be user-first as well," Wong says. "Obviously the angle we've taken around ‘how can we add value to moments in mobile lives' is the angle they should really be taking, too."

Yahoo says half of its monthly active users visit the site on mobile devices and it is "committed to delivering outstanding advertising that is designed specifically for mobile and integrated across our new experiences."

"Regardless of the format, Yahoo's focus should be on the ROI of the advertiser while respecting the consumer experience. To that end, specific ROI metrics for these new ad units would be interesting to see," says Frank Sinton, chief executive (CEO) of Beachfront Media. "Additionally, we would be excited to see if they start turning these into video advertisements, which have shown very strong engagement rates on mobile and other devices."

Wong says that Kiip's mission is to give mobile users rewards from related brands, such as a Gatorade reward for a consumer who has completed a run with a fitness app, or a reward from Kraft in a food app when a user accesses a salad recipe. Yahoo should think about having a similar strategy.

"We completely took the angle of rewarding as the core premise of what people should be receiving in mobile interaction with us," he says. "We've seen that quantity is not the focus anymore in mobile. It's more about the quality and putting your best foot forward...it's about picking out moments and adding value to those moments."

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Lisa Lacy

In addition to ClickZ and Search Engine Watch, Lisa's work has appeared in The Huffington Post, The Luxury Spot, LearnVest, MarthaStewart.com, GoodHousekeeping.com, amNewYork, and The Wall Street Journal. She's a graduate of Columbia's School of Journalism.

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