American Marketer


Why the banner is dead on mobile

October 29, 2014

Kunal Gupta is CEO of Polar Mobile Kunal Gupta is CEO of Polar Mobile


By Kunal Gupta

With this month’s announcement by Apple of the iPhone 6 Plus, publishers are seemingly excited as they think the news will encourage marketers to more seriously consider advertising on mobile devices.

I think not, since the banner is dead on mobile. And here is why:

“Year of mobile” has come and gone for publishers
Consumers continue to buy mobile devices at an incredible pace. IDG says that more than 1 billion smartphones alone were shipped last year, yet publishers are left scratching their heads wondering why they are not yet raking in mobile advertising dollars.

To really hammer home the point that publishers have missed the boat, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner Mary Meeker’s latest Internet trends presentation shows that while 20 percent of media time is spent on mobile devices, only 4 percent of ad spend is on mobile placements.

EMarketer predicts in 2014, for the first time, more time will be spent with media on mobile devices versus desktop. Clearly something is not working.

Marketers are to blame partly for poor mobile banner engagement
How many times have you clicked a mobile banner ad and been taken to a Web site clearly designed for a 20-inch desktop screen versus a 4-inch smartphone screen?

Mobile ad networks, ad agencies and publishers have tried tirelessly to help marketers develop mobile-friendly landing pages, but few have succeeded. This poor user experience in turn has trained the average consumer to shy away from engaging with a mobile banner.

Banners are not dead on desktop – only on mobile
What we often forget is that the reason banner ads still work for marketers and publishers alike on desktop is the immense amount of ad tech infrastructure behind the scenes that makes everything work.

This infrastructure is limited on mobile and likely will not get there due to hardware, browser and privacy limitations, not to mention the closed mobile operating systems that have complete control over third-party tracking.

Mobile ad leaders have opted out of banners
According to eMarketer, 69 percent of the total mobile advertising spend this year in the United States will go to two companies: Google and Facebook. None of these sites use banner ads and I highly doubt you will see any of them adopt mobile banners. Coincidentally, all have adopted in-feed, native-like ad formats.

Publishers starting to adopt a banner-less mobile experience
The likes of Quartz, BuzzFeed and Upworthy have all adopted a banner-less mobile experience.

Quartz recently redesigned its site and it is a beautiful one. Jay Lauf, president of Quartz, shared this about how the company thinks about advertising: “We are committed to making the advertising on Quartz as high-quality as the stories that come from our newsroom. That’s one reason we have never run a standard ad unit on the site”.

Replace every mobile banner ad with a native ad
We have learned that the performance of native ads on mobile devices is strong – 50 percent higher click-through rates on native ads and two times higher time spent on sponsored content pages.

THE MOBILE EXPERIENCE of the future is a banner-free environment. The banner is dead on mobile.

Kunal Gupta is CEO of Polar, a Toronto-based native advertising platform provider to premium publishers. Reach him at