If you’ve ever fat-fingered an ad on a smartphone or tablet, the thought must have occurred to you: Do people ever click on these ads on purpose?Google, a major seller of mobile ads, has tacitly admitted that the answer is no, in a blog post unveiling a new format for mobile ads meant to stop accidental clicks.
“We find that most accidental clicks on in-app image ads happen at the outer edge of the ad unit, likely when you’re trying to click or scroll to nearby content,” product manager Allen Huang wrote in a blog post Thursday. “Now if you click on the outer border of the ad, we’ll prompt you to verify that you actually meant to click on the ad to learn more.”
Accidental clicks are a far bigger problem on mobile than on desktop websites. A recent study by Trademob found that 22 per cent of mobile-ad clicks are accidental. (To our ears, that sounds really low.)
Google expects the change to lower click-through rates but increase conversion rates from legitimate clicks.
This is a good step. But it brings up a larger point: Why is Google trying to rejigger banner ads for the mobile Web, when the industry consensus is that “native” ads—ads that fit seamlessly into the content and services where they’re found—are the way to go.
Some examples of native advertising formats are Twitter’s Promoted Tweets, Facebook’s Sponsored Stories, and Foursquare’s Promoted Updates. Smaller startups are also coming up with clever solutions: Kiip, for example, gives mobile users rewards that appear after you log a workout with a fitness app or finish a level in a game.
Google, in a sense, pioneered native advertising when it came up with the text links it inserts into search-engine results. Rather than show banner ads, Google search delivers related ads tied to keywords in the search query.
YouTube’s skippable video ads are in some sense native—you’re already watching a video, so why not watch a video ad, too?
But Google hasn’t found a good native solution for mobile advertising in its portfolio of products. Until it does, it’s going to keep tinkering around the edges and trying to optimise mobile display ads.
This seems like exactly the problem Google CEO Larry Page talked about recently, in trying to get his company to innovate:
In general I think there’s a tendency for people to think about the things that exist. Our job is to think of the thing you haven’t thought of yet that you really need.
Sure, it’s great to stop mistaken clicks which annoy both users and advertisers. But the reason this problem exists in the first place is because Google hasn’t brought enough innovation to mobile advertising.