Blog Post: A Wave of New Mobile Ad Formats

Ever hear of a “sticky ad” or maybe of an “adhesion ad”? More than likely you’ve heard of an “in-line” or “in-content” ad, but have you heard of a “slider” or “flex” ad? Each of these is part of a new wave of mobile ad units. The names can be catchy or silly depending on how you interpret them, but really they’re just new ad formats to give publishers and advertisers more options as they look to capitalize on the on-going and explosive growth of mobile advertising.

If you’re a digital publisher and/or advertiser you need to get smarter everyday about where mobile advertising is going and what it will mean for your business with each shift in ad tech and ad formats. As important as the substance of what you present to a mobile user, is how you present it, and this goes for both edit and advertising because each content type has a unique impact on your user experience. To put a finer point on it, it is most critical for you to figure out the best user experience, with edit and advertising, for video. And because everyone copies everyone else in order to gain an advantage, when it comes to mobile video presentation we would all be wise to copy Facebook.

Stickey/Adhesion ad unit demo

In an interview with the Axel Springer CEO, Mathias Döpfner, Mark Zuckerberg was quoted saying, “I think video is a mega trend, almost as big as mobile.” Although made in the context of a broader discussion around the evolution of technology and human communication, this statement carries a good deal of weight and meaning purely because of who made it.

Sure Mark Zuckerberg is a smart and insightful guy, but that alone is not what brings meaning to his statement. It’s the fact that Facebook distributes more video content, both of the edit and advertising variety, then any other single company or source in the world (I’m not including movies and TV shows in this analysis). And if you’re paying attention to the moves that Facebook and their multitude of media partners are making, the volume of that distribution will only continue to grow exponentially in the coming years.

What this means is, Facebook essentially affects every aspect of how we as consumers, interact with content, specifically video content in this example. And it certainly means that Facebook affects how other developers and publishers plan strategy and tactics around video. Think about it, is video a mega trend because Zuckerberg and Facebook think it is, or was it already one and they are merely pushing it forward? Regardless of what you decide the answer is, there is no question that Facebook influences what most of the world consumes and from whom. And because of this, Facebook also influences how we consume content.

The how influence has manifest in many ways, and these new mobile ad formats are an example (or examples) of that influence. In-line video in many ways became ubiquitous because we all got used to seeing it in our Facebook news feed. Even more interesting, at least to this publisher, is how Facebook has made auto-play video both acceptable and commonplace.

Expandable Ad Unit demo

For the uninitiated “auto-play” is the user experience of scrolling down a page and having a video start (in audio mute) as soon as you roll over it. This seemingly modest shift in video presentation has single handedly lead to a massive increase in video interaction rates and Facebook has certainly been the beneficiary of this increase to the tune of billions per year in advertising revenue. Advertising revenue aside though, starting a video with the sound off and letting a user get a taste of the content in an unobtrusive manner, is a better user experience.

There’s no question that hardcore user advocates will shout this down as a violation of user choice. And although there are likely examples of abuse, video auto play in general is not a violation of the user experience; it’s an enhancement of it. For starters, the sound is off so as a form of intrusion or distraction to the user experience it’s about as inane as you can get. The bigger and more important point though, is, there’s a ton of video out there, on every device and from every person who can and does publish content. And guess what? We all like video, a lot. It’s easier to consume and you can consume more, faster, which we all have to do these days. Do you or I really want to click every single piece of video content out there and then decide it’s worth viewing? I don’t think so.

Not surprisingly, it appears that developers and publishers agree on the value of auto-play video. In almost all mobile apps now you find these new mobile ad formats, things like in-line auto play video ads or “sticky ads” that adhere to the bottom of the screen and follow the user scroll. This type of video presentation and these kinds of ad formats are now commonplace in mobile apps, and we can finally see that same experience come to the fore within the mobile web.

Some may ask why, or just think that I’m downright ignorant about mobile usage patterns. It’s all about apps, right? Wrong. The mobile web accounts for 2x the amount of daily traffic compared to mobile apps, and is likewise increasing in size at 2x the rate. And this is not a small difference in actual numbers. We’re talking tens of millions of people per day in difference. Translation: there are a ton of people consuming a ton of content on the mobile web and a ton of publishers who want and need a video experience that is current with the times. Finally, it’s here.


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