Research reveals products best suited to mobile advertising

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Billions is spent each year on mobile display advertising, and that spend is only set to skyrocket. But just how well do those small ads on small screens really work. According to the report “Which Products Are Best Suited to Mobile Advertising? A Field Study of Mobile Display Advertising Effects on Consumer Attitudes and Intentions“, conducted by researchers at Columbia Business School, those ads do work but only for certain types of considered purchases.

In their analysis of survey data collected from 40,000 consumers in the U.S., Columbia Business School found that mobile display ads work best for products that have a practical and important use that require considerable thought when decision-making. Such items might be a lawnmower, family car or washing machine.

However, when it comes to less important and low-involvement purchases, like entertainment purchases (movie tickets) or everyday essentials (toothbrushes) or fancy items such as watches, mobile banners ads aren’t as effective.

According to Miklos Sarvary, co-director of the Media Program at Columbia Business School, marketers’ approach to mobile advertising is still “spray and pray” – putting out ads and hoping they will work. But, he believe there’s a lot more going on in the minds of consumers. A lot of rational thought goes in to comparing one product to another and this psychological process is intensified when the purchase under consideration serves a useful purpose.

During that period of consideration “you’re debating with yourself about which model of car you should buy,” says Sarvary. “If a display ad for that car shows up on your smartphone, even if it’s tiny and doesn’t provide you with new information, it’ll reinforce what you already know about the product.”

The upshot? Sarvary says mobile display advertising’s strength lies in reminding consumers of what they already know and prompting them to rethink about the product. To that end, Sarvary suggests that mobile display advertising is more effective after a product has been advertised in other media.

“That way,” says Sarvary, “the banner ad seals the deal.”

The results of the study were recently published in Volume 51, Issue 3 (June 2014) of the American Marketing Association’s Journal of Marketing Research.



Kristina Knight-1
Kristina Knight, Journalist
Content Writer & Editor
Kristina Knight is a freelance writer with more than 15 years of experience writing on varied topics. Kristina’s focus for the past 10 years has been the small business, online marketing, and banking sectors, however, she keeps things interesting by writing about her experiences as an adoptive mom, parenting, and education issues. Kristina’s work has appeared with, NBC News,, DisasterNewsNetwork, and many more publications.