Mobile app ads cause concern for advertisers

The Central Office of Information (COI), the UK’s biggest advertiser, has called for industry bodies to offer guidelines on advertising in mobile apps as the format becomes increasingly popular.

It comes after advertisers expressed concern that ads in iPhone apps which link to sites not optimised for mobile could damage brands’ reputations.

Last month Google launched AdSense for Mobile Apps to capitalise on the growing sector and began serving ads into iPhone and Android apps for brands such as BlackBerry, Compare the Market and O2. But some ads direct users to online websites that don’t render on phones, rather than to mobile-enabled sites.

It’s estimated that up to 30% of ads within mobile apps link to Flash sites which can’t be displayed on an iPhone; just 5% link to a mobile-enabled site.

Advertisers told new media age that unoptimised sites risk causing serious damage to brands by offering a poor user experience if they fail to display or function correctly.

Franco Beschizza, head of mobile for the COI, said advertisers must keep a close eye on where they’re spending and have clear goals for mobile ad activity.

“The danger is consumers will get a bad experience if a site isn’t optimised for mobile. If you’re buying keywords for mobile, you must make sure the experience is really good,” he said.

He called for industry bodies to set guidelines for advertising in apps as the area has grown so quickly.

Prinz Pinakatt, European manager of interactive marketing for Coca-Cola, said while the iPhone could handle full websites it wasn’t an ideal experience. “Optimisation for mobile is clearly the way to go. For other phones, I’d be worried about the user experience and cost to consumers. Browsing on the iPhone is good but the best case would be to optimise sites for it,” he said.

The issue has escalated because since the launch of AdSense for Mobile Apps all ads booked via Google automatically run within apps unless the advertiser opts out. Google recommends advertisers need not make changes to campaigns, despite the fact they’ll appear on mobiles.

It states: “These HTML browsers can render most standard web pages, meaning that you won’t need a mobile-specific site or landing page in order to reach these mobile users.”

A Google spokesperson said, “Consumers now expect to find the same web content no matter which device they’re using. Although some publishers, including us, optimise for mobile in some cases, mobile browsers are becoming good enough to give users a one-web experience.”

Google has adopted its one-web strategy since it launched AdSense for Mobile in September 2007, which delivers all online ad campaigns across its mobile network. But the success of mobile apps – which has seen more than 1.5bn downloaded via the Apple App Store since July 2008 – has forced advertisers to confront the issue.

Julie Jeancolas, associate director for media agency Carat, said while iPhone users who download apps are responsive to advertising, the experience must be suitably tailored. “If you’re an advertiser that doesn’t have a site for mobile, you’re in trouble. You should be able to opt in rather than have to opt out,” he said.

Jonathan Mew, head of mobile for the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB), said that while phones are likely to become powerful enough to handle full websites in time, most were not ready. “It’s down to brands to make sure they communicate to people in the right way,” he said.

Paul Berney, MD of Europe for the Mobile Marketing Association, said the body is to address advertising in apps in its next set of best-practice guidelines and is currently collecting data from the market.

“It’s early days to set down hard and fast rules but not too early to say what appears to be working,” he said. “It’s difficult to do anything with a global consensus; we’re always a few months behind the curve.”

The Google spokesman defended its opt-in policy by explaining it was introduced to ensure successful existing campaigns continued to run. He added advertisers were free to direct traffic to any site they chose.

This story first appeared on newmediaage.co.uk

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