What is Mobile Advertising? Examples and How It’s Used


Mobile advertising encompasses various forms of promotional content delivered to smartphones and tablets. Companies use text ads via SMS, banner ads on mobile websites, and in-app advertisements to reach consumers. These ads are tailored based on user preferences and browsing history. As mobile device usage surpasses TV viewership, businesses have adapted their advertising strategies to target a broader audience. This article explores how mobile advertising works, its evolution, and the various types of mobile ads. It also distinguishes mobile advertising from mobile marketing and discusses its impact on consumer privacy.

What is mobile advertising?

Mobile advertising refers to a diverse range of promotional strategies delivered to mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, using wireless connections. Companies utilize this form of advertising through various channels, including text ads sent via SMS and banner ads embedded on mobile websites. Additionally, mobile advertising extends to ads within downloaded apps, including popular mobile games.

How mobile advertising works

With modern technology revolutionizing media consumption habits, people now spend more time on their smartphones and tablets than watching traditional television. This shift in consumer behavior has prompted businesses to adapt their advertising strategies to focus on mobile advertising.

One of the primary reasons for this shift is the increased likelihood of reaching new and existing customers through mobile devices. The prevalence of wireless connections and the convenience of mobile devices make them a prime advertising platform. However, mobile devices typically have smaller screens, necessitating optimization for smaller displays.

The earliest form of mobile advertising involved SMS text messages. However, this approach quickly evolved to include mobile web and in-app advertisements. A notable model in mobile advertising is the cost per install (CPI), where advertisers pay based on users installing a mobile app. CPI mobile advertising networks operate in either incent or non-incent models, with incent models offering users virtual rewards for installing apps.

Many apps offer free versions supported by in-app advertisements. Similarly, mobile versions of websites feature ads optimized for mobile displays, ensuring a seamless user experience.

Special considerations

Mobile advertising tailors ads according to consumer tastes and browsing history. For instance, ads on platforms like Facebook are customized based on an individual’s web browsing history, geographical location, and online shopping habits.

However, concerns about consumer privacy persist. Data mining and other techniques are used to collect information about consumers’ device usage, raising concerns that companies may share or sell this data.

Types of mobile advertising

Mobile advertising takes various forms, including:

  • Push notifications: These pop-up notifications appear on mobile devices, delivered to users at any time, even when not using a specific app.
  • Image text and banner ads: Clicking on these ads redirects users to the advertiser’s page via a web browser.
  • Click-to-download ads: Clicking on these ads leads users to the Google App or Apple App store, depending on their device’s operating system.
  • Click-to-call ads: These ads enable users to initiate a direct call to the advertiser using their smartphones.
  • Click-to-message ads: Users clicking on this ad type are directed to contact the advertiser via SMS.

Mobile advertising vs. mobile marketing

Mobile advertising and mobile marketing, while related, differ in key ways. Mobile marketing is a broader term that encompasses mobile advertising. It utilizes personal data, including location services, to personalize ads based on user preferences, habits, or location.

Mobile advertising involves a programmatic bidding process for ad placement, with advertisers bidding in real-time for ad space on mobile devices. This process relies on a demand-side platform (DSP) to facilitate real-time bidding and optimization based on key performance indicators such as effective cost-per-click (eCPC) and effective cost-per-action (eCPA).

Weigh the risks and benefits

Here is a list of the benefits and drawbacks of mobile advertising:

  • Effective reach to mobile device users.
  • Cost-effective advertising medium.
  • Customized ads based on user preferences.
  • Concerns about consumer privacy.
  • Potential data sharing and selling by companies.
  • Reliance on data mining techniques.

Frequently asked questions

How do companies tailor mobile ads to consumer preferences?

Companies tailor mobile ads using data mining and information gathered from consumers’ browsing history, geographical location, and online habits.

What are the privacy concerns associated with mobile advertising?

Concerns include data collection methods, potential data sharing or selling, and the use of personal information for targeted advertising.

Are mobile advertising and mobile marketing the same?

While related, they differ. Mobile marketing is a broader term that encompasses mobile advertising and uses personal data, including location services, for personalized ad targeting.

Key takeaways

  • Mobile advertising includes various promotional strategies on smartphones and tablets.
  • Ads are tailored based on user preferences and browsing history.
  • It offers an effective way to reach mobile device users, but privacy concerns exist.
  • Mobile advertising differs from mobile marketing, which utilizes personal data and location services.
View article sources
  1. Targeting and Privacy in Mobile Advertising – University of Washington
  2. Comment submitted by Mobile Marketing Association – Federal Trade Commission
  3. Mobile Advertising – The University of Texas at Austin
  4. Mastering in-App Purchases: Unlocking Mobile App Potential – SuperMoney