Mobile web advertising: a contradiction in terms?


Russell Buckley and I have worked together before and we swap ideas on many things mobile. Here is a discussion we have been having – considering Russell’s new venture admob.

Seek thoughts on this

It pertains to advertisements placed on mobile web sites

My impression of mobile browsing is: people browse on mobile devices with a specific purpose in mind (unlike on the web).

This means, sites like Google will return specific results in a search query and the user will want to click that specific element of information.

For example: If you entered ‘Italian restaurants’ : then a Google mobile search will return specific addresses of nearby Italian restaurants(including perhaps means to directly SMS these restaurants from the mobile site).

In contrast, if you entered ‘Italian restaurants’ on the web, then we could get a whole host of results including perhaps the history of Italian restaurants in the UK etc etc.

So, in this context, my question is: Is not a mobile advertisement a contradiction in terms?

In other words, I go to the mobile site to get a specific piece of information. In that situation, why would I want to click on an advertisement on that page(since I am in a ‘hurry’ and ‘on the move’ already so to speak)?

Note, I am not referring to ALL mobile advertising – just advertising on mobile browsing sites.



  1. The key piece of data that Google needs is your location. It can then send you information on the search request… the next issue is what kind of advertisment should it send you? and how should it send it? Should it be done via email (they don’t have your email address) Should it be done by SMS which costs money – or should it be a single web page that loads infront of the Italian resturant web page?
    Search on the desktop is about browsing, on the mobile device it’s about finding – it’s going to be tough to tie advertising to finding vs. browsing.

  2. Mobile Browsing…Under your very premise that people are going online to find specific information i dont think it makes sense to look at advertising in the context of browsing as its unlikely that i am going to be browsing from my mobile.
    I use my GPRS connected phone to get online a lot, but i use it for two purposes at this time, 1. Check Email 2. Read specific blogs.
    Now i dont want advertising in either, the screen is already small and i have to scroll enough already , dont want to have ads to deal with additionally.
    But than again in the future if there are some mobile specific services, which can be used at a cost or can be used free with advertising, than it might be interesting..

  3. Rocco Georgi says:

    let’s say your specific search results produce not just “regular” matches, but after every 5th match or so google is also showing you a maybe differently colored mobile adwords commercial (so you recognize it – similar to the regular adwords). this ad will be related to the italian restaurants you are looking for. it could therefore be something like a “guide to italian restaurants” or “cook italian yourself” page, or even just an address of a greek restaurant – similar, but not exactly matching the search term.
    this would also fit into google’s idea of delivering ads in a way they are (at least to some extend) useful for you and the ads would in a way also be “specific elements of information”.
    so, to answer the question “why would I want to click on an advertisement?”: because the ad is itself a specific element of information or it leads to them.