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Why Don't People Click on Mobile Advertisements?

  |  August 25, 2014   |  Comments

In a recent Nielsen study that explored why people choose not to click on a mobile ad, users cited apathy as the number one reason. What can marketers do to change this?

Everyone sees mobile ads on their smartphones and tablets, but how many people actually click on them?

Less than half, according to recent research by Nielsen for xAd and Telmetrics. The study found that only 43 percent of smartphone users clicked on a mobile advertisement in the month leading up to the polling, while only 37 percent of those with tablets said the same.

So why don’t people click on the ads? Is it just that they aren’t interested? Praveen Kopalle, a marketing professor at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, says it’s more than indifference. In his own research, he found that the duration of undivided attention tends to be 50 percent lower on mobile devices than on computers.

"If we go to Yelp to find a restaurant, we type a query, look at the results, and click on an option to see the reviews. Say it takes a minute on a computer," he says. "On a smartphone, typing the query may take 25 seconds and while we wait for the results, we may go to the kitchen to get a glass of water. When we are doing such multitasking, the ads can be a nuisance."

Kopalle adds that with significantly smaller screens, people are much more immersed in their activities than they would be on a computer, making advertisements that much more interruptive.


So what can marketers do to make sure their mobile ads get seen? According to Kopalle, in order to combat the lower click-through rates, ads need to have a much lower nuisance factor and the immersion factor needs to be increased. 

"For example, offering Angry Birds with a similarly interactive ad is likely to produce higher engagement. There should be a match between the ad and the app that the user is using at the time," says Kopalle.

Joe Laszlo, senior director of the Interactive Advertising Bureau's Mobile Marketing Center for Excellence, adds that device makes a huge difference to ad engagement: "On a device as intimate as a smartphone, it's important that ads not be willy-nilly aimed at anybody in the world. Advertisers need to take the time to make sure ads reach their likely customers."

In a similar study for Adobe, Survey Sampling International found that the platform is also a factor in clicking. Of the respondents — who used smartphones and tablets, as well as e-readers and wearable devices — 35 percent clicked on a mobile website ad, compared with 26 percent who had clicked on an in-app ad, despite the fact that people spend far more time on apps, according to Nielsen research from last year.

According to the studies conducted by Nielsen and Kopalle, other failure-to-click factors include slow loading times and difficulty getting back to the original content, as well as users being busy, deeming the ads irrelevant, and ignoring them.

Laszlo points out that a lot of mobile advertising is still 320x50 banner ads that have just been downsized from their Web counterparts.

"It's all too easy for consumers to ignore that, even if it's the best product in the world," he says, adding that video ads resonate better on mobile.

He says that as time goes on, more companies are allocating larger budgets for mobile, recognizing it as a separate, powerful platform, rather than an extension of their Web advertising.

"We tend to judge mobile advertising based on the yardstick or timeline of digital when really, mobile is still pretty young. So it's not surprising that it's at an earlier stage of evolution as far as creative goes," he says. "Now we're starting to see ad designers take mobile ads a lot more seriously and that'll affect mobile click-through rates a lot more going forward."


Mike O'Brien

Before joining the ClickZ team, Mike O'Brien was a reporter for newspapers in Brooklyn and Eugene, Oregon, where he earned a Master's degree in journalism from the University of Oregon. Having also worked in newspaper sales, Mike enjoys writing about marketing and advertising much more than selling it.

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