The mobile ad onslaught is coming. In six months, a new study predicts that ad spending online and on mobile devices will overtake overall spending for ads on television, officially making your smartphone and internet browsing devices the hottest place for advertisers to try to capture your attention. But on the bright side, researchers think the ads themselves might start to get a little more fun.
On Wednesday, Venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield, and Byers published a study predicting that mobile advertising has a huge potential for growth, particularly in ads for tablets and smartphones. And where there’s potential for growth, KPCB says there’s also a huge potential for extreme experimentation — which means more weird, offbeat, and potentially entertaining ads.
KPCB’s forecast of 2017’s most important digital trends begins by noting the dramatic shift to online ads versus television and print. But even as more ads are moving to the ‘net, spending on mobile platforms is still lagging, despite the fact that users spend a comparatively huge amount of time looking at their smartphones as opposed to other types of media. Print, for example, accounts for only 4 percent of the time spent, but 12 percent of the spending; mobile accounts for 28 percent of media time, but only 21 percent of ad spending.
This dramatic gap could simply be the industry taking time to adjust to the new mobile-first reality, but KPCB has a few other ideas. The firm thinks that ad-blocking software could be eating into non-mobile margins, particularly in the developing world, where ad-blocking software is absolutely exploding, rising from 150 million worldwide users going into 2015 to over 400 million by the end of 2016.
Additionally, not all forms of media are created equal. KPCB points out that companies might be more willing to spend on print ads because print readers are statistically richer, and spend more time staring at ads. NYTimes.com might have more readers than the print edition, but you’re more likely to see an ad for De Beers diamonds on paper than you are on the side of your browser, because rich people still get the hard copy.
The solution for advertisers is simple: make better ads, and maybe become a friendlier and more effective company overall.
That might seem like a big ask, but KPCB thinks that’s what it’s going to take to break through the wall of apathy and free software solutions that protect millennial minds from digital brands. That means ads will have to be flexible, fun, and engaging: rather than a pop-up, brands could try an interactive Amazon widget with a button to directly add a product (selected for you based on prior areas of interest) to an online shopping cart, or a live chat widget that launches a real conversation with a salesperson or service rep. As long as it gets a user to click on something, it’s effective, but they have to want the product as well.
The study notes that “users increasingly opt out of stuff they don’t want,” and have a pretty low tolerance for useless ads and bad customer service. Customers are more likely to forever boycott a brand because of a single bad interaction, and thanks to open source software like tailored adblockers they’re more capable of enforcing their preferences than ever before.
Beating that combination of will and ability in the ad-skipping populace is going to take both better ads and better delivery of them. It could mean more crazy stunts from Redbull, or apps that try to help you out as well as sell you stuff. But while the ad industry is adapting to a new way of optimizing clicks and sales, users are going to be inundated with a whole lot of ideas they don’t like. But Adblock exists, which means that bad ideas will eventually melt away. The ones that remain might at least be entertaining — and if the revenue they bring in helps keep the internet free, it’s a win-win.