Mobile Advertising Sucks

Online advertising is a hard subject to tackle. More often than not, interactive advertising can be in your face, hard to bypass, and commands more attention than the desired content itself. With technology rapidly expanding and consuming our everyday lives, it’s time to consider alternative methods for advertising through our devices. It can be done better.

I will be focusing on mobile advertising, as smartphones are becoming the biggest tool and device to complement our digital lifestyles. So naturally, ads will follow, and it’s up to the designer to find a better experience for the sake of all mobile technology.

When are people open to viewing advertisements?

People hate the idea of advertisements. But can you think of real-life situations in which people don’t mind seeing ads? Consider these situations:

  • Watching trailers before viewing the movie for which you paid to see.
  • Reading ads on a long road trip.
  • Halftime shows at a sporting event.
  • Reading magazines while you wait to get a haircut.
  • Downloading an application or file.

All of these situations seem normal, and often are filled with advertisements. But that is to be expected, and is less aggravating than say reading a blog article on your smartphone from someone you follow and being hit with an obstacle course of ads. No wonder we hate mobile ads, they get in the way of what we want to focus on. So how do we translate those real-world states of openness for publicly sponsored service announcements to the interactive mobile model? Well, let’s see what all of these examples have in common: they all occur when we’re in transition from point A to point B.

Think about it. When you’re waiting for something to load, to happen, you’ve accepted that you need to wait. That sliver of time between what you were focused on and where you’re heading to next is the perfect time to slip in advertisements in an unobtrusive way, because you’re in transition. Based on this observation, I would like to target these moments of transition for my alternatives to currently common models of mobile advertising.

Interpolated Advertising

Interpolated advertising aims to insert sponsored content inbetween your points of interest. These key points will be between your areas of focus, and will not impede on your normal user flow while navigating the internet and applications in hand. As current mobile advertising systems seem to hinder the user experience, interpolated advertising will seamlessly integrate with familiar navigational concepts. Remember, it’s all about timing. Without further ado, let me introduce a couple of suggested starting points for interpolated advertising.

Parallax Ads

Although parallax is already in play, parallax scrolling offers a fun way to show ads to a targeted audience. More specifically, I would like to see parallax advertising while side-swiping from page-to-page, e.g. while reading an article on Medium, then swiping/tapping back to your previous position. The motion from left to right would introduce an advertisement that moves at a slower pace than the content page being swiped right. This allows the user to be in control of how fast they view the ad, with a minimum requirement to be met to ensure a view has been made. Around 3–5 seconds should suffice.

Pull-Down Refresh Ads

These advertisements would be a direct result from users trying to refresh/reload the content of interest. At this point, the user understands there is a small window of time needed for the content to load, which leaves room to dismiss a loading animation, and display relevant ads. These would display for a minimum of 3–5 seconds, or as long as it takes the new content to load.

Drawer Swipe Ads

Often times we find ourselves searching through lists of content grouped into drawers that we can swipe left or right. These swiping gestures allow the user to discover underlying navigational signifiers. With drawers that offer basic options, like a simple delete button, bump it over enough to give room for a teaser of an ad. Either delete the content drawer, or slide it back to the right. No biggie.

Navigation Flip Ads

Navigation is essential to users, so why in the world would you cover valuable real estate needed to navigate? How about we also consider a state of transition while we browse through our content: it’s known as scrolling. While scrolling, you’re essentially moving past loaded content and seeking more information. This may be a tight window to shoot for, but it’s also an interesting concept and falls with the transition timeframe. Imagine scrolling through content rich pages without a hint of advertising, until you scroll significantly further down or up. Based on small strokes, the screen would act normally. But add quick, long strokes, and the advertising control switch would consider it to have enough time to display an advertisement over the header or footer, or both. When the screen slows down, or a touch event occurs, the ads would sink back away, out of sight.

In Conclusion

These, of course, are not all possible alternatives for mobile advertising. But it’s a start. The key to interpolated advertising is a mix of timing and user-generated events and gestures. With a little help from the community, not just designers, but as people who run into these crappy mobile advertisements, we can design a better ad experience. If you’d like to suggest more alternatives, please leave some feedback. I’d love to hear what you all have to say.

P.S. - For your amusement, here’s a link to a tumblr devoted to bad mobile ads: Crappy Mobile Ads. It’s pretty awesome!

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