Mobile advertising revenues will grow from $4.06 billion in 2012 to $20.89 billion in 2016, according to eMarketer. So… how well does it work? The click-through rate of banner ads is 0.06% – lower, it’s been pointed out, than the average failure rate of birth control. Moreover, as we noted in August some 200 million consumers now block ads entirely. Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Joe McCambley, the man who invented the banner ad back in 1994, points to recent studies by Trademob that show that 40% of clicks on mobile banners are due to “fat finger syndrome,” meaning consumers click on mobile banners by mistake, or because advertisers trick them into clicking.
Evidence of potential problems with on-line’s effectiveness is accumulating. And yet, online will consume 40% of the entire $600bn global ad spend by 2017 according to Zenith Optimiedia. What’s up?

This month the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB), the online industry’s standard setting body, issued a remarkable “mea culpa”, effectively recognising that the industry has lost sight of the consumer. “We messed up” they say. “As technologists, tasked with delivering content and services to users, we lost track of the user experience….”

The fundamental issue is that consumers today – and millennial consumers in particular – have a new relationship to media. They expect something in return for their attention. Put differently, ads should be useful, funny or talkable. Realisation of this seems to be setting in. Google’s Larry Page acknowledged as much at Google’s June 2015 shareholder conference: “Part of it is the industry needs to be better at producing ads that are less annoying”.

In its post, the IAB goes on to propose a new, less invasive framework for ads. And McCamberly calls on the Ad Agency world to rethink fundamentally what an ad is there to do. The world’s first banner ad, in 1994 for AT&T, connected clickers to a tour of seven of the world’s finest art museums. It demonstrated how AT&T could transport people through space and time via the Internet. In other words it was helpful. It had a click rate of 44%. Ask “How can I help you?” McCamberly urges, not “What can I sell you?”

Recent Posts