“Accidental” clickthroughs in mobile ads

ads at the bottom of smartphone screens produce accidental clickthroughsMany online publishers, such as the Huffington Post, put 300×50 display ads at the bottom of the documents they deliver via portable devices. I’ve always been lukewarm about mobile advertising, because these devices are so intimate, so personal, and interrupting the experience to try and sell me something is extremely agitating. But publishers, who badly need the money, put consumers second in trying to create an advertising-friendly environment.

It’s bad enough to have an ad take up so much real estate on a tiny screen, but it’s an insult to put them at the bottom of the screen on touchscreen devices. That’s because they’re located where the user begins their scroll, which produces unwanted, accidental clickthroughs on the ads.

This is a bad problem for two reasons. One, it unnecessarily interrupts the user’s experience, and, two, it produces false results for the advertiser, which leads me to believe that bottom screen ad placement is deliberate (tsk-tsk, how cynical!).

I love the Huffington Post and regularly use its Android app. In a routine session, I’ll accidentally click through those bottom ads 5-6 times. I’m likely clumsier than most, but think of the false results they’re providing advertisers, because the software that’s counting clickthroughs doesn’t care whether those are deliberate or accidental.

In my experience, game apps that are free with ads, always put the ads at the bottom, and I’d argue that’s deliberate. As long as we’re going to base value on clickthroughs, we’re going to have those elements that want to “encourage” clickthroughs.

I think this is a problem that the industry is going to have to solve, because portable devices are much more personal that other tools of new media.

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