What Makes A Good Mobile Ad? One Company is Trying to Find Out

In the waning days of 2015, a commotion started brewing in the online publishing world: what would happen to publishers, bloggers—content producers of any stripe, really—as ad blockers became more and more common amongst web users?

The debate reached its peak as 2015 came to a close, with agonizing debates over whether ad blocking would lead to the demise of many ad-supported sites, from news outlets to tech blogs to small-scale but beloved web content creators (think favorite online cartoonists or travel bloggers, most of whom depend on ads for revenue.)

But the fervor also spurred some thinking about why users were choosing to block ads in the first place. An analysis by DigiDay found that users were frustrated by several key aspects of online ads, including ads that blocked access to websites, clunky performance and cluttered design due to ads, and, for some, privacy concerns over web tracking.

Yet, until now, few studies had asked what users actually liked about the ad experience, particularly on the mobile platform, which is quickly becoming the platform of choice for reading, interacting, and engaging with digital content across the spectrum.

One Swedish publishing company is trying to change that. In 2015, Schibsted—which puts out some of Sweden’s most popular publications, including the country’s biggest news site—surveyed its readers to try to figure out what they clicked (or at least tolerated) when it came to mobile ads.

The results, written up in Nieman Lab, are revealing for both advertisers and publishers thinking about optimizing user experiences on the small screen of the smartphone.

Among the findings are that users almost overwhelmingly preferred image-based ads to ads that contained video and disliked having their browsing experience interrupted by an ad that required a click-through or another action.

And, as an additional analysis of the findings from the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers points out, users who were considering purchasing certain products reported feeling more likely to purchase after seeing them advertised on mobile. The research team believes this may due to the “personalization” effect of having messages displayed on a smartphone, where information caters more to the whims of users than a typical desktop experience.

For more insights into the future of both publishing and the way we interact with advertising online, take a look at Schibsted’s 2015 Future Report.

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