The Importance of the Touchscreen in Mobile Advertising

Posted on by Andrew Augustine

Amidst all the current industry clamor over mobile ad viewability, why isn’t anyone talking about the role of the touchscreen?

In its recently issued “Interim Guidance on Mobile Viewable Impression Measurement,” the Media Rating Council stated: “the ways in which users interact with content and ads in mobile environments may have [emphasis added] different patterns than those observed in the desktop environment….”

May have? How about changing the word “mobile” to “touchscreen”? Because that’s what really distinguishes mobile from desktop in today’s world of smartphones and tablets. Indeed, without touchscreens, would we really be talking about a mobile ad industry? Just think back to the days of BlackBerries.

The MRC cited one other unique aspect of mobile: the “technical characteristics of the mobile ad serving environment.” Again, nothing about the unique experience of using a touchscreen. Here’s an idea: rather than focus on how mobile brings out negatives in our industry’s ecosystem, let’s focus on how it brings out positives in the user experience with ads.

Mobile is not just a different delivery technology from desktop. It’s a whole different technology, period. And touchscreens are the reason.

For mobile ads to work best, you want some kind of user interactivity – whether swiping, tapping, tilting, etc. Things a user simply can’t do on a desktop.

So maybe we want to move beyond using the same viewability requirements for touchscreens that we do for desktop. When someone’s interacted with a touchscreen ad, after all, it doesn’t matter how many pixels they’ve seen, or for how long. An ad that’s been interacted with was not only “viewable” — but, even better, it was actually “viewed.”

As we move further and further into an era when touchscreen advertising dominates the marketplace, it will be time to make touchable impressions at least as important as viewable ones.

How would we define and measure “touchable impressions”? Nobody said this would be any easier than figuring out viewable impressions. But it’s worth starting the discussion now.

If we want to add new terms to the mobile ad lexicon, let’s not dilute the picture with such phrases as “loaded ads.” Let’s raise the bar, instead, by working together to acknowledge the truly unique nature of touchscreen advertising – and work toward a level playing field for everyone, brands, agencies and publishers – by bringing “touchable impressions” into the debate.

Andrew Augustine is vice president of sales at PadSquad.




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