Advertising from a user perspective

The only way I, as a user, want advertisers interrupting my experience, is if –

  • I am in “consumer mode” and am looking for something.
  • If the Ad is so well-targeted that I can’t resist clicking on it.
  • It is so visually appealing that it piques my curiosity and makes me want to grab at it like a shiny new toy.

I have created Ads that are very clickable, but I have never seen an Ad that I couldn’t resist clicking on. I think web Ads, in general, are pretty week. Being one of those visual people who compulsively looks at anything that ‘pops’, the fact that I don’t click on Ads actually says a lot for the visual appeal of Google Ads. Maybe that’s not entirely fair, but the Ads that appear in my apps are generally the same ones over and over, and they are dull as dishwater.

One annoying little trick I’ve noticed in apps is that the programmer puts other essential buttons right above or below the banner so that you accidentally click. I’ve done this so many time in my Solitaire app. I think it’s sneaky, but ultimately I can’t fault them too much for wanting revenue after all of their effort to build the app.

Solitaire app

Consumer mode

This is really tricky. Normally when someone is in the middle of a session in an app, they aren’t looking to buy shampoo or anything else. I would venture to say that the only thing they could possible by looking for is something related to the app or something that compliments what they are doing. So, there is the possibility a particular app can actually bring out the ‘consumer’ in the app user. Advertising other similar apps is an obvious example. If an ad for some great organizational tool popped up while using Evernote there is a strong likelihood that the person using Evernote would be interested.

Ads that hit the bulls eye

Ads should be as contextual as possible. Serving up Ads that relate to the current activity is optimal for the banner Ad at the bottom because, with the correct Ad comes the likelihood that the user will click. An example of this is with travel apps. If I’m using Viator,, Kayak or something similar, chances are that travel-related advertising will definitely catch my eye. What often happens, however, is that I’m in a travel app and see ads for the very same site. What a waste! What should happen is that I’m looking for hotels in Belize and see Ads for hiking boots, luggage, mosquito repellant, etc. When we reach this point in Ad filtering, Ads will bring in some serious revenue. If there is a way to do this, I haven’t seen it in action yet. Ads in the apps I buy remain unclicked.

The beauty of it

You don’t have to have an artistic eye to have a positive visual response to something. I wrote a long post about app icons being visually appealing. Ads should be visually appealing as well. I’m amazed at how many large advertisers are still in text mode. There can be a lot of movement and rotating, which is more annoying than effective. But, the Ads themselves are overwelmingly text-based. The choice of colors is uninspiring. A lot of the big advertisers are really state-of-the-art and they get all of the attention, but I doubt they get many clicks. That doesn’t matter, actually.

So what is the purpose of the Ad? I think it is either to prompt and immediate action (buy this now!) or the purpose this serves for the advertiser is to keep the brand exposure up. The large advertisers don’t really need your click. They just need to stay on the radar. So if you see their Ad and don’t bother to click the Ad has fulfilled its purpose and they haven’t spent a dime.

The small app developer is looking at clicks, however. No clicks means no revenue, so these big guns are kind of taking up space. I want to see a way to filter out the larger brands and then better Ads from smaller companies; more color, catchier phrases. This, unfortunately, is in their hands.


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