Advertising is the way of the media world, and especially the way of the Web. Without advertisements, Facebook would never have become what it is today, and the online world would be a totally different place. Most people in this industry would be working for free – or for next to nothing – and sites such as ours might be subscription-based or nonexistent. While most people dislike ads, it's fair to argue the world is a better place because of them.
However, advertisers and content providers face a new hurdle, one that is growing in importance each and every day: mobile.
Mobile devices are still a relatively new delivery tool for content and, to date, few have discovered a method of serving advertisements that is both efficient (in terms of click-throughs) and convenient (for end users). Thus, monetizing content via mobile – through ads, mobile Web or methods of the like – is only proving to be difficult.
The vast majority of mobile applications that use advertisements do so through banner ads that cling to the top or bottom of the display. Banner ads greatly subtract from the quality look and feel of applications, yet they are easily overlooked my most. They are uninteresting and extremely passive; there is little reason for anyone to ever click them. The other style of mobile ads as popularized by Zynga and OMGPOP (now owned by Zynga) are full-screen pop-up adverts that display after an action is performed. In the case of Words With Friends by Zynga, after a user plays a word against an opponent, the full-screen ad appears and the Skip button becomes active just seconds later.
Both of these methods are, more or less, effective and work just as any ol’ advertisement does – as people continue to use the application and click the ad, the developer earns revenue. But they could certainly be better.
Some ad networks have sought to exploit the extra functionalities – in this case, vulnerabilities – of mobile devices to serve ads. Airpush, for instance, decided to overstep the boundaries of applications themselves and turned the notification shade on Android into a billboard. And advertiser sellAring has offered a way for developers to make their money by serving audio ads to you while you wait for someone to answer your call. Instead of hearing the typical ring-ring or ringback tone, you will hear an advertisement.
And we learned last week that Amazon is planning to offer premium advertising on the welcome screen of Kindle Fire tablets for a cool $600,000.
To be frank, mobile advertising is sub par, at best. And this, as I explained a few weeks ago, is exactly why Facebook has been so reluctant to improve the user experience of their mobile applications. As more users adopt smartphones and tablets, they use their desktops and laptops less and less, yielding less revenue per user for Facebook. In simpler terms, more mobile activity earns less revenue for Facebook and they need a mobile monetization strategy ... and they need it fast.
Thanks to 21-year-old Brian Wong, though, mobile advertising may change forever. Business Insider reported this morning that Wong has a mobile game and app ad network, called Kiip, that has "clients such as Pepsi, Best Buy, Carls Jr, Popchips and Disney." Kiip works similarly to incentivized ads of the past. "It essentially bribes consumers into doing the one thing they usually avoid: clicking on ads and giving marketers their information," says Jim Edwards of Business Insider.
The major difference, however, is that instead of asking you to "watch a video" or fill out a form", Kiip will "be there after something you've decided to do already on your own terms," says Wong in the comments section of Business Insider's piece. Wong calls this rewarding instead of incentive-based ads. Edwards explains:
"In a nutshell, Kiip's banners appear in a mobile game once a user completes a level. The ad offers the user a reward for their gaming success: a free bottle of Propel, for instance, was offered by Pepsi inside the MapMyFitness app for every eight miles run by a user.
The ads are easily declined by users who don't want free stuff. Wong believes that as soon as advertisers learn to offer rewards that are relevant to the game and the demographics playing them—Amazon gift cards for every 15 thumbs up inside Pandora, for instance, or matchday tickets for fantasy league players—then consumers will respond by only playing games and using apps that contain Kiip-enabled rewards."
Kiip is currently utilized by 300 applications on both Android and iOS, and has shown a reward to over 50 million mobile users. And Wong wants Kiip to become a trusted consumer badge, where mobile users will not install or use apps that aren't using Kiip's rewards.
Ads don't typically bother me at all – that is, if they don't invade my privacy, my ear or my notification shade. If they stay within applications as banners of occasional pop-ups that are easily dismissed, I have no issues with them. But, in an attempt to turn higher profits, new ad networks have become more crafty and intrusive, putting ads where they don't belong.
Kiip, though, seems like a great idea. It isn't necessarily a brand new idea, but rather a refined version of incentivized ads. Regardless, users who click the ads are rewarded, those who don't miss out on free things. As long as the advertisements are no more intrusive as banner ads or difficult to dismiss as the full-screen pop-up ads used by Zynga, I say bring on Kiip, and I hope developers feel the same way.
What say you, readers? Are Kiip's reward-based ads the way of mobile adverts? Or do you not care about being rewarded for the things you do in ad-supported apps? Have you used an application that uses Kiip? Have you received a reward from a Kiip client? If so, share your experiences and thoughts below!