the 22-year-old founder of mobile adtech company Kiip, thinks it’s misguided if not downright delusional, for the industry to think it can successfully engage consumers on mobile devices using the same banner ads
that people ignore on their desktops.
To Wong, whose company offers users more than 1,500 vouchers for free products just for using certain mobile apps, the display ads sold by his competitors represent an unwanted disruption to the user experience. In his mind, even the full-screen “interstitial” ads thought to be a more attractive alternative to the banner ad still rely on “trickery” to get users’ attention.
“It’s always trickery, right? When you look at that model, people kind of accepted defeat even before they started those companies,” Wong said in an interview with Business Insider. “What I mean by that is that they accepted the fact that advertising is a necessary evil.”
Kiip’s goal is to offer something better, both to mobile users and its advertising partners. Though the company originally started out offering rewards to mobile gamers after they finished a level, the company has since expanded its offerings to apps ranging from fitness (a bottle of Propel water after completing a mile on MapMyRun) to productivity (a gift card after finishing a to-do list task on Out of Milk).
So far, the approach seems to be working. Wong said his reward ads are so popular with consumers that Yahoo Japan has used them to increase user experience and engagement. According to him, adding Kiip can help a mobile app reduce churn — the number of people who stop using the app right after they download it — by between 30% and 40%.
“We know that it’s actually changing the thinking of a lot of advertisers,” Wong said. “Our biggest fans are people who are like ‘Yeah, these banner ads don’t work.”
As CEO of Kiip, Wong has staked out a position contrary to the one held by some of his peers in the mobile ad tech industry. In his view, the smartphone is a lean-forward device, one that people use only when they’re expecting it to complete a certain task, as opposed to a lean-back device used primarily for entertainment.
Wong says that while interrupting what he calls the “me time” of the mobile experience will leave users annoyed, Kiip can be successful by rewarding users with useful offers that augment, rather than disrupt, their experiences.
“You have all these new releases from these ad builders that are like ‘Now it’s more 3D and you can share it easily,'” he said. “You’re not thinking about the user. They don’t give a shit about that. They’re not going to be like ‘Oh my god, I can’t wait to share this car!'”
“No one cares. That’s my bottom line. And we’re actually trying to do something about it.”
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