ad:tech New York 2012: ‘Angry’ Protesters, The Rise of Mobile & Death to Banners


Last Thursday, protests erupted outside of the Javits Center in New York City on the final day of ad:tech New York. A group of over 100 people gathered together outside of the event in protest, pumping their fists and screaming at the tops of their lungs. Were they American conservatives protesting the recent presidential election results, or immigrants from Portugal protesting Germany’s Chancellor Angela Markel about the Eurozone crisis and her support of austerity measures around economic reform?


This group of protesters gathered together to rise up against one of the world’s leading super-powers: banner ads. Yes, this was indeed just a PR stunt and while I typically hate writing about such things, I must admit the protest did catch my attention. This was ad:tech after all, and the industry event itself is all about how to maximize the number of eyeballs drawn to a message. In my eyes, the protesters did succeed in this endeavor, no matter how lame the purpose of their stunt might have been.

A company called VIRURL claimed responsibility for the mini-uprising and used the rally as a springboard to announce the launch of its enhanced branded advertising platform with a new interactive widget feature called a “Slideout.” This widget offering, which is targeted toward web publishers, is designed to serve and monetize relevant partner content to website visitors without the need for obtrusive banner ads.

Some in the ad industry believe that banner ads are dead (you can take a look at my recent article about this topic here), while others believe it may just be going through an identity crisis with the explosion of mobile, or evolving into a more interactive, yet-to-be-named form altogether. Some believe that sponsored recommended content will soon be replacing the real estate that banner ads take today.

“The goal of the protest was to raise awareness of how users have a distain for spammy banner ads,” said VIRURL CEO Francisco Diaz-Mitoma. “Some call it a lofty goal, but I think it is possible to revolutionize the way advertising happens online. I want to make sure the next few generations of users online have a positive experience. I think this will happen if we put the ball in the advertiser’s court and ask them, ‘Want to get my attention? Make something I care about, make me think about something, create some emotion and impact me in some way.’”

What About Mobile?

So if banner ads are being replaced with new technologies, how do mobile ads fit into the picture? A study issued last week by social ad company RadiumOne examined the role of mobile advertisements and how advertisers are using targeting technologies to reach the 18-34 year old demographic, what Nielsen calls the “Connected Generation” or “Generation C.” According to the results of this study, 47 percent of respondents indicated that they clicked on a mobile ad in the past 3 months and 54 percent mentioned they have made a purchase from a mobile device in the last 6 months.

Also worth mentioning is the fact that more than half of the respondents used their mobile devices to comparison shop at least once a week. I know from personal experience that if I am in a store checking out high-ticket items, I will do a quick online search while standing in front of the item before deciding whether or not to pull the trigger. Out of the findings, one thing is clear: The mobile phone is a very personal device and one’s intimate connection to the outside world. Reaching consumers on mobile is about tapping into their personal desires, tastes and purchasing habits. Mobile will be a major focus for brands in 2013.

Diaz-Mitoma said advertisers have a lot of work ahead of them to fine-tune the mobile ad experience.

“Most of today’s mobile banner ads are referral URL’s that direct users to download an application,” he said. “Now, let’s stop and think about the experience. You’re in an app, playing a game or taking a photo and an ad pops up, taking you out of that experience, completely breaking it. Now you’re downloading an app for a couple minutes and once that happens – now what? That mobile banner experience is completely broken.”

A recent survey of mobile users conducted by Google revealed that 72 percent of respondents think it’s important to them that websites are mobile-friendly, yet 92 percent had visited a site that doesn’t work well on their device. 67 percent said that a mobile-friendly site makes them more likely to purchase a product or use a service.

Truth be told, for all of the hoopla surrounding the rise of mobile advertising, websites are pretty far behind in being optimized for mobile devices. No matter how much promise mobile holds for advertisers, a lot of investment still needs to be made on the publisher side to get websites up to speed to match the demand and revenue potential offered by the elegance of mobile advertising.


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