Pixelated man

Mobile ads on the latest smartphones

I recently upgraded my phone plan, switching from an iPhone 4s to a Galaxy Note 4. In doing so, I experienced first-hand that which I’ve written about many times before.

We’ve known for at least a few solid years now that marketing and advertising can’t be the same across all devices. A campaign that will work on a desktop won’t necessarily work on a smartphone, which may or may not work on a tablet. This isn’t new news. And, as I mentioned, as a marketing person, I’ve written about this many times before.

Never has the truth of this hit me harder, however, since I moved to a phablet.

The iPhone 4s is, by today’s standards, a fairly small phone, with a screen size of only 3.5 inches measured diagonally. When I was using the iPhone, I barely ever noticed mobile advertising popping up on my screen while I was scrolling through blog posts or inside social networking apps. To my eye, they were akin to a tiny break of eggshell woven into your omelette; in order to see banner ads, I had to pay close attention. Such is not the case with the Note 4.

The Note 4 has a far larger screen; it’s actually got one of the largest screens on the smartphone market, 5.7” to be exact. On such a large and high resolution screen, mobile advertising becomes a lot more noticeable. Unlike on the iPhone 4s, banners jump out at you, demanding your attention.

On face value, marketers would be rubbing their mitts together in triumph. After all, for marketers, concocting ways to monetise ads on the mobile device has proven a thorn in the rear since the smartphone came to be. With this phablet trend growing roots, meaning a general increase in smartphone screen sizes, problem solved. Right? Well, half right. And only half solved.

Big Screen =/= Big Quality

Having a big screen size to landscape a banner ad is one thing; utilising not only the bigger size, but the increased screen quality, is another.

One thing I noticed about these little glowing banner ads on my giant smartphone is that they feel only half baked. They’re often pixelated, a little fuzzy. The Note 4 has a seriously bright and vivid HD Super AMOLED screen, whose camera is capable of ultra HD video recording. That considered, when you’re on a website that, for the most part, looks incredibly rich and alive, an even remotely pixelated banner ad, glowing either at the top of the screen or in the centre of it – well, it will look subpar.

This might bother me more than it would other people. It’s a subjective quibble, sure. Nevertheless, there is merit in saying that – and especially for larger, better known brands and organisations – low res banner ads might make the advertiser look cheap.

Another thing I noticed that I hadn’t previously while using the iPhone 4s is how much slower a page littered with banner ads will run. If you’re scrolling down an article of the Times, or reading a blog post, and the page is heavy with banner ads, lag will happen.

This is a smaller issue, without any potential solutions, but it’s also worth mentioning. The last thing you want someone to do is unconsciously draw a negative psychological association with your brand. The opposite should be the case. Alas, it happens. If I’m thumbing down my phone through a page, and I notice that my phone’s lagging, there's a chance I might get frustrated. While in that frustrated state then, if what I’m looking at is a banner advertising your brand’s products or services, my mind might unconsciously make a connection between your ad, and my frustration. Annoying, but it happens. And it's something of which to be mindful.

Back to the good news

The potential to target mobile devices with well-adjusted marketing strategies is greater than ever. A bigger screen means a bigger playing field. It also means that any marketing directed toward the mobile platform must be customised precisely for that platform.

HD images. Less text. Size. Timing. All these things are extremely important, and shouldn’t be overlooked. The smartphone is only getting smarter. This doesn’t mean that marketers and those performing marketing duties can sit back in their recliner chairs, kick their feet up, and get lazy in their mobile marketing efforts. To the contrary, it means more diligence should be poured into mobile marketing techniques, as the benefits, but also the possible downsides, ring loud and clear.

If you're interested to read more, take a look at the article we wrote a little while back about mobile responsive web design.