Alexandra's Mobile [Ad]itude: A new series about Google mobile ads

Monday, February 11, 2008 | 7:50 AM

, Product Marketing Manager, Mobile Ads

You may have heard a lot of talk about mobile advertising, but it might still be hard to make sense of this rapidly growing and constantly changing market. To help us all understand this industry, its trends, and Google's part in the market, I wanted to start this column -- and hopefully a dialogue -- about mobile ads.

First, let's define what exactly mobile advertising is. In its simplest form, mobile advertising may be an SMS or an MMS sent to your phone. On phones with data plans, mobile advertising is more likely to be text or display ads on the mobile web's search and content pages. On more sophisticated devices, you may also see broadcast TV or video advertising.

The mobile ad market, however, faces a number of challenges. While industry leaders like Japan have the technology and scale for mobile ads to thrive, other markets face a chicken-and-egg phenomenon in the development of the mobile web. Some potential mobile website owners aren't sure how much they will be able to monetize a mobile website, or whether WAP will soon be replaced by HTML. And since the mobile web remains smaller than the regular web, mobile advertisers may not feel they have enough places to put their ads -- or enough viewers to see them.

The times are changing, though. The combined impact of mobile advertising promises to be huge -- and is projected to reach some $4B by the end of 2008. By 2011, this number is expected to increase to $11.3B. There are a few key reasons this market holds a lot of potential. For one, there are nearly more cell phones in the world than televisions, telephones, and personal computers combined. Secondly, smartphones that offer unlimited data plans and easy mobile web browsing are becoming increasingly popular. Smartphones already account for a majority of data traffic and are gaining in sales. Finally, mobile ads are still cheaper than their online counterparts right now.

Like I said, I want this to be a dialogue. So leave me your comments and questions below or on our YouTube channel. I'll pick some of them to talk about in future posts. In the meantime, you can learn more about mobile ads or AdSense for mobile content or read related blogposts such as What's new with Google Mobile Ads and Meet mobile Publisher Mikle.


Unknown said...

I think that mobile advertising as you've described it falls into two distinct categories.

Advertising that comes via SMS or MMS is spam, pure and simple. If it becomes very prevalent, we'll start seeing the same level of hatred towards it and effort put into filtering it. I hope Google still values their "do no evil" mantra enough to avoid becoming a spammer.

Advertising that is part of a mobile web page is much more analagous to advertising on the normal web as we have it now, with an important caveat. If you stick even a smaller version of a normal web advert on a mobile web page, it suddenly can become as big or bigger than the actual page content, and likely will take longer to load. I think if you want to forecast public attitude towards that, think along the lines of loading a page full of flash ads over a 28.8 modem.

Case in point: I check the weather every morning on my smartphone. I used to use one of the major commercial sites, but no more. That site put enough ads at the top of the page that there was zero content visible until I started scrolling. So now I use a smaller, but still fairly well known site that provides just as good data, with only one or two lines of advertising so that the essential information I want to see is visible in the first screen. So the net result is that the site with less ads is making more ad revenue from me.

The screen real estate of mobile browsers is not going to increase appreciably any time soon, since the size of our pockets is not going to change, and so this must be taken into consideration when thinking about user reaction to mobile ads. Imagine if a website you visited had a 1600x1200 screen full of ads at the top of every page that you had to scroll past to see what you wanted to read, and which took 5 times as long to load as the rest of the page. Would you visit that site much?

Lucas Shaw said...

I've got my own views about mobile ads, but I will follow Alexandra's script by asking some specific questions.

Question 1: If mobile ads are unsolicited what incentive will there be for users receiving what most would consider ad-spam? Would Google subsidize service plans?

Question 2: With such limited screen real-estate on mobile devices, how will Google ensure that my mobile search queries contain the best search results and not just the highest ad bidder?

Question 3: What role will a user's location play with ads and search results? What measures will Google take to protect location privacy (particularly with Android apps)?

This is a good start, and I have many more questions to ask as the discussion evolves.

Niranjan said...

Hi Alexandra,

I think that mobile ads is going to be the future soon.

I have a question:

- I have a great idea for mobile ads, will Google buy that idea? Will Google offer me a job and let me work at Google on that idea?

If that is possible then I am in. :)


mahern4 said...

Hi, great post.

I just downloaded Yahoo! Go 2.0 application for my cell phone. It's really amazing. I can upload pictures from my phone to Flikr, check email(Yahoo! only), get news, weather, view maps and a few other things. This is all packaged in a cool looking and easy to use interface.

My problem is I love Google. I have a Gmail account, pictures uploaded on Picasa, look at Google News and use Google Maps constantly.

I guess this isn't really a question about ads but is there any chance that Google will be coming out with an app like this? I think it would be very useful to many people.


A S said...

I have commented on some of the challenges of mobile advertising in the gPhone System blog: Challenges of Mobile Advertising.

To summarize my points: Advertising on mobile phones is not an easy proposition due to the scarce screen space, reduced attention span of users and risks of antagonizing the user by being too intrusive, or worse, costing her/him time and money to view the ad. However, the rewards are enormously high for anyone who successfully cracks this puzzle as effectively as Google cracked the contextual ads puzzle.

The Dean said...

Push = pain in butt very quickly,
There is a BIG place for mobile 'ads' {scratch ads and substitute information} to play a part but it doesn't involve google pushing them, though it could involve google delivering them. I don't think the 'we don't know where you are exactly' is going to fly either - you'd be stuck with a scattergun firing ads at you if you SMS'd 'restaurant' in some neighborhoods {and don't tell to put 'Chinese' in - I'm standing in Chinatown}.

Search, store, receive, organise, respond, deliver - are the only words you should have in your vocabulary [or mind]. I have a plot and of course it's the 'killer' but isn't everything? It doesn't have the word 'ad' in it in the sense you use. This just isn't the place to unveil it. We've done the maths and there's more than a google of clicks involved.

And Hey - congratulations - you give fantastic search - just be careful you don't 'push' yourself out of the picture - it's a fickle consumer.

p.s. the little letters in the word verification were the same as the last time - what are the odds of that? Do I win a prize?

yaromir said...

Hi there. Below is my question:

With the iPhone browsing capability, I can visit my web blog and see Google ads on iPhone as I would normally see them when accessing from a PC. In this scenario, do you see it as mobile advertising or web advertising? My opinion is that soon it won't matter if it's a mobile site or not, it is just one web accessed from irregardless what type of device. It's one web, only user's behavior is different depending on whether he is on the go or in front of a PC. Do we need to divide the mobile and online advertising into two distinct fields? Mobility and location-awareness are just complimentary things mobile phones bring to online advertising.

On a subject of mobile advertising, marketers in Japan spent half a billion of US dollars on mobile ads in 2007. See more details on my blog:

Kelly L Taylor said...

If you're using SMS to deliver ads, what's the difference between mobile advertising and spam? I'm already getting spammed on my phone. Why would I want to pay for more of it (yes, it costs me, too y'know)?

Mihir said...

This is a fascinating space to watch out. Thanks for opening up discussion around mobile ads.

1. There are so many predictions of what the mobile ads market will be in 2012 ranging from $1B (Forrester) to $19B (ABI Research). What are Google team's expectations?

2. Given the smaller screen size, and mobile phones being a very personal device, mobile consumers might see ads as more of an intrusion rather than value add. Comments?

3. Google Adwords are primarily served based on the context of the pubisher's page they appear on. On mobile, targeting individual users based on their profile/preferences/location will be crucial. How will Google get access to this data? If this means working with carriers, how willing are carriers willing to partner with somebody for these technologies rather than build themselves? e.g. China Mobile, Virgin Mobile are building the ad platforms themselves.

4. How many phone browsers support javascript and cookies? Without this penetration, how does Google move adwords/adsense into mobile?

5. Last and also perhaps the most important, what are the expectations of mobile ads team from Android? Will Android be purely used to push ads on browsers? Or is the idea to push ads on other areas of the screen? Status bar/screensaver/other applications?